The Breath of God

Over this last week I have been struggling with one of the worst sinus infections I have had for many years.  In the midst of it I have become very aware of my breathing, something that when I am well I can easily take for granted.  It has been a great reminder to me that I owe my very existence to the breath of God.  God made humankind from the dust of the earth but it was only when God breathed on us that we became living beings.

God breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils and the man became a living person.  (Gen 2:7).

Over the years I have posted a number of breathing prayers and have revisited and used several of these over the last few days so thought that I would remind all of us of these this morning.  Some feel that the very name Yahweh is designed to sound like breathing so being reminded of this on a regular basis is important.

Jonathan Brink commented on one of my posts that at the Emerging Church Conference in Albuquerque, Richard Rohr talked about breathing YHWH as a way of saying the name of God.

Yoh – Breathe in
Hey – Breathe out
Hah – Breathe in
Veh – Breathe out

Here are links to some of the other breathing prayers that I have written in the past

Another Breathing Prayer

Breath of God Breathe on Me

Is Breathing a Spiritual Practice

A Breathing Prayer by AB Simpson

And let me finish with the original breathing prayer I wrote which I know has been widely used in worship and meditation.  it is also my favourite so I thought that I would repost it here

Breathe in the breath of God

Breathe out your cares and concerns

Breathe in the love of God

Breathe out your doubts and despairs

Breathe in the life of God

Breathe out your fears and frustrations

We sit quietly before the One who gives life and love to all creation,

We sit in awe of the One who formed us in our mother’s wombs

We sit at peace surrounded by the One who fills every fibre of our being

Breathe in the breath of God

Breathe out your tensions and turmoil

Breathe in the love of God

Breathe out your haste and hurry

Breathe in the life of God

Breathe out your work and worry

We sit quietly before the One who gives life and love to all creation,

We sit in awe of the One who formed us in our mother’s wombs

We sit at peace surrounded by the One who fills every fibre of our being

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Preparing to Paint – God is at Work

We are getting ready to paint our kitchen and breakfast nook.  I am quite excited about this as we are going to redesign the breakfast nook as my office – a long overdue change as at the present time I work at our dining room table and constantly need to move everything every time we entertain.

What has amazed me is the amount preparation that needs to be done before we paint.  First the walls and cupboards needed to be washed down to remove the dirt and grease of 10 years of cooking.  Then the cupboards needed to be sanded.  And finally we need to tape the wooden trim on the cupboards so that it doesn’t get paint on it.

What I realize is that the preparation work is far more time consuming and important in some ways than the painting itself.  And of course if we don’t do a good job of preparation then the paint won’t stick and we will need to do it all again – with better preparation next time.

As you can imagine, watching this has made me think a lot about the way that God works in our lives.  Preparation is so important to our spiritual development.  It would be very easy to just apply a fresh coat of paint over the top of the dirt and grime of past sins and hurts, but it doesn’t stick.  Sooner or later the veneer of clean and seemingly healthy living peels off and the sin and pain underneath is exposed and we need to start from the beginning cleaning, scraping and preparing our lives so that God can come in and “paint” us with a good clean veneer of paint – one that will stick this time.

I think that part of the reason this has struck me so profoundly is because I have watched as the veneer of seemingly clean and healthy living that so many Christians assume, chips and flakes off because they have not been willing to prepare their lives adequately.  And often it is not their fault.  Those with natural leadership gifts in particular are often pushed into positions of responsibility long before they are ready for them.  They may have good practical skills but the spiritual foundations necessary to handle their positions like mature Christian leaders would, are definite lacking.

I am reminded again of Keith Meyer’s assertion in Whole Life Transformation that we need to make spiritual formation the center and focus of church life.

Becoming a church focused on spiritual formation involves centering everything – our individual an corporate lives, our teaching and preaching, our children’s programming, even the songs we sing- on the kingdom…. Transformation begins in our lives, our relationships with each other and our families.  When we enter into whole life transformation, at first nothing in the church changes except for us.  We begin by understanding and living the gospel.  (p125)

Preparing to paint is a little like focusing our lives and our ministries on spiritual formation and the need for transformation in all of life, rather than on big programmes and growing numbers in church.  It is spiritual formation, working deep within our lives that transforms our inner being into Chrisklikeness and our daily practices into kingdom living.  And that not surprisingly reminds me of Romans 12: 1,2

And so dear brothers and sisters, I pleas with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship him.  Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Help Prevent Burnout – Take a Cleaning Day

Today is a long overdue cleaning day for me and I am delighted that I will have several helpers to assist me.  This is no ordinary cleaning day.  We will be emptying out closets that have not been touched for years and burrowing into corners that rarely see the light of day.

This kind of cleaning, at least in the northern hemisphere, we usually associate with spring and the season of Lent when we clean out our houses as a symbol of the inner cleaning that God is doing in our lives.  But the autumn too seems an appropriate time to begin the cleaning process as a symbol of the cleansing our souls need in preparation for the Advent season and the coming of the Christ child – a season that the cool mornings and cloudy days remind me are not far away.

And of course, those of you in the Southern Hemisphere are right on time for that big spring clean, not just in your houses but in your lives.  Consider it a preparation for the Advent and Christmas season.

September and October for many of us are times for intense planning as we start to think about the year ahead and how God wants us to shape our lives and our ministry into the future.  Hopefully it will not just be a time of business planning.  This is also a good season for another retreat time to reflect on the year that is passing and the one that is to come.  It is a good season to take extended time to listen to God and discern what God is saying… before we start to plan.

I want to make sure this year that the rest and refreshment of the summer does not get swamped by the growing busyness of the season.  And, as I mentioned yesterday, I want to make sure that I take time to listen to the quiet voice of God that comes not in the whirlwind of activity I am so easily drawn into but in a gentle whisper .

I have always been challenged by the story of Elijah as it is recounted in 1 Kings 19.  Here is a great man of God, who has done remarkable things but feels like a failure primarily because he is exhausted and too distracted to recognize God’s provision and hear what God is saying.

All he can say to God is “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty but the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you…. ”  Elijah seems to be caught in that mind numbing space where there is so much whirring around in his head that there is no way he can hear the voice of God.  And like so many of us when we are under pressure, he feels as though no one else in Israel  is still following God.

When we are exhausted and over busy it is easy to see ourselves as God’s answer to the world’s need.  And we can become very self righteous in the midst of it saying like Elijah “I have been zealous for God but no one else has is following you….” I know because I have been there and don’t want to go there again.  But I still need regular reminders.  That is one of the reasons that I am such a strong advocate for regular retreat days and times of reflection.  For those of us that are activists as Richard Foster says “Busyness is not of the devil, busyness is the devil.”

Dancing Outside the Box – Entertaining Angels Unaware

I am sitting at our dining room table this morning thinking about how often we miss out on the lavishness of God’s grace and mercy in our lives because we are too busy to listen or too set in our ways to notice.

I have been feeling a little overwhelmed this week by the weeding that has not been done in the garden and the cleaning that has not been done in the house – primarily because we are doing some renovations around the house that both make more mess and take more time.  A couple of nights ago there was a knock on our front door.  At first we thought that the 2 young men standing there could be Mormon missionaries.  Then we realized they were not dressed well enough for that.

It turned out that they had just spent a year as interns at Sojourners community in San Francisco and are now heading up to Canada to help found another community.  However their Canada work visas are still somewhere in limbo land  and they are temporarily stranded in Seattle.  For the first few nights they slept in their car, but then managed to track the Mustard Seed House community down and so ended up on our doorstep.  Now we are very keen on hospitality but it would have been very easy to turn them away.  After all we knew nothing about either of them, but both Tom and I felt prompted to invite them in.

They are now sleeping on the floor in our unrented basement apartment and have very quickly gotten the garden into shape.   In fact it turns out that they are both interested in becoming farmers and so working in the garden is exactly what they like to do.

From our perspective they do seem like angels sent by God to help us at this time.  And we are enjoying getting to know them and learning about their interest in community.

This situation has made me realize how important it is to constantly be listening for the voice of God and following the leading of the Spirit.  God often works in unexpected ways that push us outside the box of conventional understanding.  And when we keep in synch with what God is doing we often don’t just find ourselves walking outside the box.  We find ourselves dancing outside it too.

I was reminded of that as I read Acts 10 this morning.  Here Peter too is confronted with young men who come from outside his comfort zone – Gentiles who want him to visit Cornelius a Roman centurion who has had a vision from God telling him to invite Peter to his home.  Normally Peter would not have gone, but he too had received a vision from God telling him to get outside his comfort zone and realize that God accepts people who are not Jews too.  What follows is the story of the first conversion and baptism of Gentiles.

God so often works through unexpected ways not just in the big things of life but in the small too.  Stepping outside the box so that we can notice is risky and it can be scary.  And it does mean that we need to be constantly listening for what God is saying.  But when we do take notice we find ourselves filled with the joy of the spirit in a way that really does have us dancing and singing into the day

God have mercy

Over the last couple of months we have been using David Adam’s The Rhythm of Life for our morning and evening prayers.  As we read the refrain Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy a couple of days ago I was suddenly overwhelmed by the impact of my awareness of God’s incredible mercy and found myself crying out to God for mercy.  There are so many different aspects of God through which I am aware of that mercy.  As a result I wrote this prayer for us to use yesterday morning in our MSA team meeting.

God the source of life

Have mercy on us

God the sustainer of life

God the lover of life

Grant us peace

Christ the redeemer of life

Have mercy on us

Christ the revealer of life

Have mercy on us

Christ the way the truth and the life

Grant us peace

Spirit the indwelling life

Have mercy on us

Spirit the healer of life

Have mercy on us

Spirit the transformer of life

Grant us peace


Introducing the Mustard Seed Village: A Celtic Community for Sustainable Spirituality and Sustainable Life

Introducing a dream

We came to our 19th Celtic retreat on Camano Island August 14th 2010 with some very good news.  Through the hard work of our architect David Vandervort and his staff, Island County has approved our application for land use as a residential school and retreat center.  David has designed a first phase plan to create an initial facility to house 20 to 30 college students and staff.

Phase One Development

In response to this unique opportunity the MSA Celtic Project Team is moving forward with a four prong approach:

First, we are currently negotiating a collaborative agreement with an organization that has for many years offered courses on environmental studies for Christian college students.  We hope that his will be formalized in the next 6 months and expect to welcome our first group of students early in 2012 when we will offer a residentially based course in sustainable spiritual practices and sustainable lifestyles to re-imagine how to live and serve God in an uncertain future.  It is probable that this first course will be based at a rental facility near the Camano property so that as many of the classes as possible can be conducted on the land.

Mustard Seed team member Cindy Todd who holds an MBA from Eastern University, will be our program coordinator.  She is using her expertise to help us develop a business plan for the project, find a rental site and coordinate the use of that site.  She is also providing important leadership is developing funding proposals for the project.

Forrest Inslee who directs a graduate program in social entrepreneurship at Northwest University, has volunteered to help design curriculum for the programme.  We in the process of are putting together a curriculum advisory group to work on this important project.

David Vandervort and his architectural firm will continue to provide leadership in the design of a phase one facility as well as looking ahead to design a larger facility on a higher area of the land for a monastic community and retreat site.

Master Plan for Complete Development

MSA’s dream for a Celtic Community began in 1989 when Tom Sine purchased 40 acres on Camano Island, an hour north of Seattle.  In increasingly uncertain times those of us who are followers of Jesus will need to re-imagine more sustainable ways to live plus rediscover a spirituality that can see us through troubled times.

We in MSA seek to create new ways respond to these growing challenges.  One way we are responding is by designing a new Celtic Monastic Community that could become both:

  1. a new model of a highly sustainable rural community living;
  2. a new model of a monastic community deeply grounded in a Celtic Christian spirituality that reflects a love of God, of neighbor and of God’s good creation.
  3. a place where students can come to learn how to create more sustainable lifestyles and spiritual practices for life and ministry in a peak oil future;
  4. a site half way between Seattle and Vancouver BC where people can come and imagine new ways to live and serve God in response to tomorrow’s challenges.

This Celtic Christian sustainable community will be constructed on Camano Island as a rural counter-part to the smaller urban monastic community called The Mustard Seed House in Seattle.  Both communities will share a common ethos, a common commitment to sustainable living and a common rule of life.

The Mustard Seed Monastic Village will be physically designed to both fit into its natural setting and reflect something of the spirit of a seventh century Celtic monastery.  Working with our architect, David Vandervort, we also want to reflect the highest level of concern for sustainable design.  We are exploring everything from rammed earth to bale straw construction, solar and wind energy and we plan to plant an orchard, garden and vineyard to provide a high level of food self-sufficiency for those who are a part of this experimental community.

The people who are a part of this community will seek to create a highly sustainable way of life with everyone sharing in routines of nurture, harvest, processing and celebration.  These monastic community members will also create a more sustainable rhythm of life based around morning and evening prayers, spiritual direction, service to those in the larger community.

At the core of this new monastic community will be a deep commitment to God and to a broad spectrum of Christian spiritual practices drawing particularly on the beauty and insights of the Celtic Christian tradition.  Our intent is for this community not only to be rooted in a rich spirituality and a different rhythm of life but to also seek to embody something of the values of God’s new world that is already here.  In both our urban and rural communities we want to model a way of life that is simpler and more sustainable but is also offers a better more celebrative way of life than anything offered by the global mall.

We are looking for friends to join us in making this unique venture a reality.  We want your ideas, your expertise and your prayers.  We want to invite your participation as we grow this project forward.  Let us give you a bit of the history of this project to help you understand the founding vision and the opportunities for your participation.

Corpus Mysticum: How the Eucharistic Image Informs My eating

This afternoon’s post was sent to me by Lisa Carlson co-Director of Aurora Care Continuum and a MDIV. Together with psychotherapist Maria-Jose. Lisa blogs at the River Beneath where they explore mental health through the perspective of poverty. I love the way Lisa grapples with her concerns about exclusion from our tables and relationship to the experience of communion.  This is an issue I have struggled with too.

I have situated myself in front of my dinner table as I write. My heart and mind are both filled with grief and inspiration. I grieve how exclusive our homes and tables are in this society. I lament that the poor do not know that they are welcome to knock at the doors of our churches and our homes to be cared for and yet (sigh) I am utterly and unstoppably inspired by the imagination and revolutionary ways of Jesus’s eating practices. As I have wrestled with, ruminated on and researched the holy texts around eating, I am comforted, affirmed and galvanized by the explicit fact that this is our tradition and our unique identity as followers of Christ; to allow our ways of eating to witness to the inclusive, healing and flourishing way of Christ in our world and for our people. I am charged that even in something as ordinary as eating, Jesus served to heal, liberate and reconstruct society.

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