Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When your world is shaking - Breath Prayers

I've felt it all day, that inability to catch my breath.  My life is in transition again, and changes, even the little ones, even the ones we know will be just fine... changes shake up our worlds.  And when my world is shaking, I'd like to sing with JJ Heller that Heaven stands and I stay secure in His hands (because that is Truth).  But the reality is when my world shakes I shake and anxiety kicks in and I can't catch my breath.  So I wind up and run, because effectiveness and efficiency have always been my answer to anxiety in the transitions, but that's not a good answer!

I learned about this spiritual discipline when I was in a prep class for my trip to China in 2011.  It comes from the story Jesus tells about the tax collector who went the temple to pray.  "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’" (Luke 18:13)  Breathe in: Lord Jesus, Son of God.  Breathe out: Have mercy on me, a sinner.  This idea eventually became part of the mass.  In the Latin it is Kyrie Eleison.  In: Kyrie (Lord).  Out: Eleison (Have mercy).  Lord, have mercy.  And yes.  It says so much because I need mercy.  I am so, so human.  I sin.  I try to run my own life.  I grow fearful instead of trusting.  When my world is shaking, I need mercy to steady me.  

And I always find it.  I count gifts I never deserved.  I wake up and hear Him call me Beloved before I do a thing.  

Oh, He shows mercy to this sinner moment by moment, breath by breath.  And that's the discipline of breath prayers.  I inhale Jesus and exhale a plea for mercy, then repeat and find the prayer answered, because only mercy keeps us breathing, and only Christ keeps us steady when our changing worlds are shaking

Monday, May 13, 2013

Stop, Stoop, and Scoop - Gather the Manna

Sometimes I just don't know how to walk this life.  I pretend I do... with my big talk and pretty words.  I try to... by writing gifts and writing Word on the walls of the mind, hoping it will sink into my heart, travel that farthest distance.  Sometimes though, life gets blurry and foggy and I am tired and worn and I'm good at forgetting and getting distracted and bad at the discipline of stopping and giving it over and putting one foot in front of the other.  And it all goes over my head and I can't get it to sink in and anxiety and anger come easier than patience and joy.

And maybe what I need is to step out of my tent, out of this flesh in this everyday life, and gather the manna. I need to get down on my knees and scoop it up, breathe His Spirit deep.  Because I can see it, this mysterious providence I don't deserve, and I can even be thankful for it, marvel at the gift, hear how this "What is it?" speaks of deep, deep love... I can see it and still walk by it, still hunger deep until I stop, fully stop, stoop down in humility and gather the manna.  God can provide, but I will not be sustained until I drop down to my knees, scoop it up and put it to my lips.  God can provide, but I must GATHER and EAT.  God fulfills, but I must drink.  Oh Lord, let me scoop and gather and not walk by!

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Mother's Day Story - Marvel in the Mystery

I never would have expected it.  I just wanted to take the Montana roommate out for some good Mexican food.  I've been to that restaurant dozens of times, ordered the same thing, never even bothered to look at a menu, and I am caught completely by surprise.  I don't even remember how it started, just the poignant joy.  My mother telling stories fifty years old, stories I've never heard before, dripping rich with heritage and history.  Stories of growing up in Mexico, living with her grandparents while her widowed  mother works cleaning houses for those living the American dream, trying to provide, and her siblings go to school.

We laugh at the stories of a frizzy-haired girl, skin sun-darkened, running around the dirt roads of Mexico in nothing but a pair of ruffled underwear, sipping tea and munching on cookies while her grandfather hangs out with his buddies.  We laugh until we cry as she tells us how she and her cousins made mud pies decorated with bottle caps and rocks and actually sold them to neighbors.. until those kind souls began locking them out because they had enough bottle cap pies to last a lifetime.

And when we get to the part where I'm picturing that five year old girl who would one day become my mother standing in line at the mill with her bucket of maiz boiled with cilantro and lime clad, as usual, only in her ruffled underwear and faithfully waiting to take masa home so her grandmother - my great-grandmother - can make the day's tortillas... When we get to that part, I see my mother is really crying as she remembers how happy those days were when all she had was all she needed.  And I have never loved her more, this woman who has loved me and hurt with me and raised me.  Her pictures are still so vivid and I can see her pulling them up in the theater of her mind.  Grandfather, the Spaniard with khaki shirt and pants, straw hat and ankle-high boots.  Grandmother with her mantilla around her head, floor-length skirt encircling her as she sits by the fire cooking tortillas - hand molding them and placing them on the comal one by one.  My mother counting and recounting the gifts.  And I feel the prickling sting of conviction for the number of times I have cried out that it is not enough when it is and it always will be.

And I marvel in the mystery of stories written on hearts.  Generations forming and reforming.  Good always outweighing bad.  Joy transcending.  God always present, even if unknown or unnoticed.  And truly it doesn't make sense.  How the messiness of life can somehow be forgotten in light of the joyful memories.  How, when all we have is all we need, it is enough.  And there is this mystery to it.  A mystery to love transcending.  A mystery to every relationship in our lives.  A mystery to how a life begins and where a life can lead.  And I marvel in it each day.  Ecclesiastes says it this way, "Just as you do not know how the breath enters the bones in a mother's womb, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything." (11:5)  Ah yes.  A mother's story.  A life's beginning.  A life's living.  God's work.  Every one, every day, a mystery in which to marvel.