It’s about time we start sharing the same breath.

prayer beautiful 2“You say a prayer in your religion, and I will say a prayer as I know it. Together we will say this prayer and it will be something beautiful for God.” -Mother Teresa

 When it comes right down to it, we pray the same way. All of us meet God in our breath.

“Sometimes breathing is the only prayer we can pray, and God hears our sigh and once again breathes the breath of life into us. We exhale, and it seems like such a little thing. But some days it is everything. It is communion—intimate and more than breathing oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. It is sacred and it is holy: this agreeing with God that we need God, for all of everything, and his joyful entering into our lives and ourselves and our very souls to make us one with him. We are gulping and breathing and sighing and gasping, and we realize our deep, deep hunger inside.” –Deidra Riggs, Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where We Are

One of the many troubling aspects of this week’s terrorism is the reminder of how little control we have in our life. Our first instinct is to build up walls of safety in our mind or our world—we plan, we change plans, we compulsively think, we reconsider. We realize we cannot control terrorists or anyone else.

We grieve this lack of control.  But, unless we want to travel down the road of fear, spinning circles in our own angst, we have to come to terms with this illusion of control. It is not something we have ever had. We cannot know when we will take our last breath.

Keep death daily before our eyes, Saint Benedict writes. (RSB, 4.47).  Being aware of and honoring our mortality may seem morbid, but it ultimately gives us freedom from fear and brings peace. This is the moment to moment surrendering of control that becomes our prayer.death before your eyes

We just need to breathe. This surrendering takes time; it is a practice.

“The breath is a primary example of how we cannot control our happiness despite our best efforts. Our bodies breathe automatically, without contrivance, clinging, over-thinking. The air is freely given. We can only realize our dependence upon the air that surrounds us and surrender to the gratuity of air coming and going….The Jews did not speak God’s name, but breathed it with an open mouth and throat: inhale–Yah; exhale–weh. By our very breathing we are speaking the name of God. This makes it our first and our last word as we enter and leave the world.” –Richard Rohr

We have in common that we breathe the same air, the “Yah-weh” breath that comes from God. We breathe the same air as the refugee, the terrorist, the Muslim, the Hindu or the Christian. Republican or Democratic. Liberal or conservative. Protestant or Catholic. We breathe the same air as those we disagree with and those we live with (and sometimes they are one and the same.)photo

It’s about time we start sharing the same breath. A beautiful example of this shared today- 
Five religions in Thailand send powerful message to people of Paris.

What can we do to stand next to the one who believes, speaks, looks differently? How can we in our ordinary lives honor that same breath of God in others?

My friend, Deidra, writes about her experience of growing up in a black church. “One of the richest traditions in the black church is what is known as call and response. When the preacher preaches, it is not one-way
communication. Preaching, in the black church tradition, is a beautiful dance between the pulpit and the pew with the Holy Spirit orchestrating the sacred exchange…Words like Amen or Hallelujah or Thank you Jesus or Preach are shouted out.”
#EveryLittleThingEveryLittleThing-DeidraRiggs-BookReview

Her church may be different than mine: call and response versus incense and sacraments; silence versus shouting. But what we both have in common, what we ALL have in common is that every little thing we do is for the benefit of the Body of Christ, the whole world, everyone who breathes the breath of God.

We are here to make a difference. 

I’ve been Catholic, charismatic, United Methodist, Benedictine and a Catholic-come-home. I practice contemplative prayer in the style of Zen. I am a Benedictine Oblate. I’ve been to Tarot card readers, psychics and mediums. There have been years where I gave God little thought. I’ve explored the writings of authors from a variety of perspectives and traditions: Buddhist, new-age, self-help, Catholic, Sufi and more. I write this to say:

This journey is my own. We each have our own spiritual journey, religious tradition, opinions, beliefs, family dynamics, traumatic experiences, country of origin and so on—but we all breathe the same breath of God.

We may not have control, but we hunger for peace despite our differences.

We want to make a difference, despite our differences.

Perhaps this can be one little thing we can do to help tear down walls and build peace.

Breathe in “Yah”. Breathe out “weh”.  And let there be peace on earth. May we honor the breath of God that flows through each of us.

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.”
~ Gandalf, Lord of the Rings

 

 

The Same Two Trees

The same two trees   ~   different direction, distance, angle, lens  ~ a different result, image, perspective, outcome.  ~   So many ways to see    ~  the same two trees.

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The calm quiet strength of a tree
Anchored deep in the earth
Reaching high in the sky
The calm quiet strength of a tree

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The calm quiet strength of a tree
Full of life from its roots
To the tiniest branch
The calm quiet strength of a tree

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And oh, how it comforts me
How it teaches me
Without a sound
Then I realize at once
That this tree and I are one
In eternity

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The calm quiet strength of a tree
From the weight of its trunk
To its delicate leaves
The calm quiet strength of a tree

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The calm quiet strength of a tree
Showing anyone near
All the secrets of time
The calm quiet strength of a tree

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Poem: Copyright 1994 Tom Splitt

Photos: Copyright 2015 Jodi Blazek Gehr

Every Little Thing!

Little things matter. A bunch of little things can make a difference, especially if it’s all the candy we eat in the weeks leading up to and following Halloween, which bumps into the weeks leading up to and following Thanksgiving…and then there’s all the Christmas parties… you get the idea. All the fun-sized, little snacks and treats can just plain add up on the scale.  Little things matter.

But little things can add up unexpectedly in big and good ways, too. The little things we do to take care of our physical, emotional and spiritual health can make a difference. The peaceful inhale and exhale of a contemplative prayer or meditation practice can sustain us when times are stressful. The little things we do for others can give comfort or show appreciation.

There are lots of little ways to make a big difference in the lives of people that we work, play and live with.

My former neighbor and friend, Deidra Riggs, wrote a book called Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are. Deidra found herself living in Nebraska, having moved here for her husband’s job, but not liking it one bit. Right where she was, was not where she wanted to be.

I started planning my escape. I wanted out. Not through. As far as I could tell, Nebraska was the very worst place to live in all the world”, she writes. Continue reading “Every Little Thing!”

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