Category Archives: Christian
New year. New me! I think, striding up to the mirror, hopefully and perhaps a bit forgetfully. What looks back at me is as yesterday: puckered, lined, wrinkled and folded. Never mind the dark spots and crusty places, nor the gray, the soft, or the sagging. Ugh…. Ugly! I can’t help but think.
And yet, what I see is, as Father Boyle has so beautifully written, “exactly what God had in mind when God made me.”*
Do I believe this? can I believe this? That the Creator’s unique word spoken into me when I was laid so gently into the world years ago has aged according to plan, grown according to design, responded exactly on cue. Can I believe I have become just what God hoped?
Because, if I do, then I am not disgusted, not even disappointed in the me I see. I don’t cringe or turn away from what seems so unsightly. It’s not unsightly to God. God has seen it all along. In fact, God saw it coming. My imperfections are part and parcel of me: the me God is glad to see.
Do I believe this? can I believe this? That this broken down me, God is glad to see?
I take this with me to communion Sunday where the New Year’s Day pastor has particular difficulty breaking the loaf of Communion bread. I know they pre-pare it. There’s a finger-hold and the start of a separation to make it easier for the pastor to pull apart. Still, she tugs and pulls and works at it until the two portions are fully separated. Finally, she holds them up and announces, “His Body, broken for you.”
Broken, I think, not sliced.
Sliced bread is clean cut. A carving performed swiftly, sharply, evenly. No, this bread, this broken bread has seen warfare. It has battled and been torn in two and it shows. The two halves, their exposed surfaces mounded and shredded. The edges ragged, uneven, hanging; the terrain an unwelcome landscape navigable only by all-terrain vehicle. But I’m not navigating, I’m looking. Looking at the lusciousness that invites me to partake of mouth watering goodness.
So different from the polite bite I would have taken from the perfectly even slice neatly delivered to the toaster to be browned on both sides.
No, bread that’s broken is way more enticing. It says come, take, eat, by the handful, pinch-full or mouthful. To each according to their hunger. Beautiful. Not the least bit ugly. Exactly what God had in mind.
Can I believe this?
- ~ Gregory Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Industries, The Whole Language, the Power of Extravagant Tenderness, Avid Reader Press, NY, NY, 2021, pp. 6.
What if the child announced by the angel, promised to a virgin mother, to be named by a dutiful father, surprised everyone on her birthday? Would Joseph still have named her Jesus? or some other name more befitting a girl-child. What is "God-with-us," in the feminine? Surely she would have nursed and cried and toddled, just as a boy-child would. walked, fallen and walked again, just as a boy-child would. run and played, though maybe not so loudly, as a boy-child would. grown in stature and in strength, perhaps even more quickly than a boy-child would. Would she have gained entrance to the Synagogue for teaching and for learning? Would she have been mentored and apprenticed in a trade? Would she have been allowed to forgo marriage to follow her true love calling? If so, then... Would she have been baptized by John at the Jordan? And when she rose out of the water, would the dove descend on her and the voice of heaven say, "This is my daughter, whom I love; with her I am well pleased." Would she then travel the countryside teaching and preaching? Would those who heard then listen to her, accept her, learn from her? -- not such a threat to authorities, this young woman, perhaps they consider her words carefully, acknowledge her wisdom and take up her cause. Following after her, they-- observing how she treated others, seeing the love in her eyes and the smile she gave to each one the hope each one departed, carrying. They might follow her in the way true followers do. Unafraid and unyielding, listening for the voice she listened to honoring the God she gave honor to growing the courage to speak to the Father she spoke to, As she did, they came to do. Would they scorn her, dismiss her, or run her out of town? Certainly not. Daughter of God, we welcome such as these, wish we all could be such as she. Would they would imprison her, stone her, or crucify her? Not a chance. Who would suspect that God would arrive in such a meek, lowly female form? Who indeed? What if Jesus had been born a girl-child? Anything is possible with God.
I’m huffing and puffing my way up the steep rocky path toward the gorgeous mountain lakes my companion has promised lie ahead. It is Rocky Mountain National Park, after all. It’s no surprise that the air is thin, but this doesn’t hamper him. He lives a mile high and trains for triathlons in the parks, reservoirs and along the roads nearby.
“I could use a 10 second break,” I plead. He obliges and we step aside to let the nimble and altitude-acclimated bound on by. A few who pass by on their downward trek offer us an encouraging, “You’re doing great!”
As I pause, my friend says sympathetically and so simply, “I find it helps to take deeper breaths.”
At the suggestion, of course, I inhale a deep breath and then draw it deeper. And you know what? It worked! As we continued, when my breath quickened and my heart started to race on the steep parts, instead of huffing and puffing and pressing on so I wouldn’t seem like a wimp, I just expanded my lungs a bit deeper on each breath.
Deeper. Slower. Stronger. I’ve heard they call this combat breathing. I call it respite in the Rockies.
And, me being me, I find myself mind-meandering through my long-ago (and mostly far away) respiratory physiology classroom training. How does that work again? At higher altitude the partial pressure of O2 in the air and my lungs is lower… the sign at Pikes Peak said 60%, I believe, much lower than the 98% I am used to at sea level … which means that there is plenty of room for more O2 saturation in my blood stream. More inhalation means more air available which provides more O2 available to be exchanged. Right? And with lots more blood coursing through that pulmonary circulation thanks to my hardworking heart which was pumping fast and faster, my deeper breaths were DOing something!
Ok OK. Miraculous and scintillating as that science-speak is, what I am captured by as I look back on this trek that, yes, I survived, is the simplicity of “Take a Deeper Breath.” It reminds me…
You have reserves you don’t realize.
You have untapped flexibility and capacity you can call upon.
And BONUS! One good thing leads to another! Deeper breathing activates a whole (parasympathetic) neural reflex that triggers calming.
All this flies in the face of the push harder, exert more, breathe faster-shallower, hyperventilation scenario it seems our world inclines us to visit these days. Sure, quick, shallow breaths may work in a pinch (like in a panic attack) because, by allowing us to blow off extra CO2, they trick our brain into thinking we don’t need to breathe. Underwater divers make use of this at their own peril.
But we, the anxious lot of us, adopt it in error and to our own disadvantage. We need to breathe. And rather than shallow, we need to go deeper. Rather than faster, we need to go slower. Deeper. Slower. By choice.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
How much of my day is spent reacting and responding with faster, faster? How much more capacity would I find if I replaced shallower with deeper? Faster with slower? What if I trusted that My Maker had already provided the means for me to climb the mountain? Any mountain? If only I listened to the voice of my capable companion?
As we ascended and came nearer to the mountain lake, those returning from their trek greeted us with smiles and happy shouts of, “You’re almost there!” How can you not smile at encouragement like that?!
Oh and the vistas did NOT disappoint.
Take a deeper breath. So simple.
I wonder what other resources one might discover in listening and complying with the voice of Wisdom and Experience while we climb this steep, rocky path called life…