Breathe with Me. A Reflection Offered on March 22nd 2020 for A Sunday Gathering Online

Enter with me the expansive space of this photo taken by Michael Freeman and breathe 90120524_10162930550070618_2496897289277145088_owith me:

Do not fear.  I am with you. Do not be afraid.  For I am your God.

Notice the smallness of the figures and the kite held in the wind and breathe with me:

Do not fear.  I am with you. Do not be afraid.  For I am your God.

Call it a mantra or a refrain, for me this past week, in those moments when I lost my breath, these words have been a breath prayer –

Do not fear.  I am with you. Do not be afraid.  For I am your God.

In the moments of anxiety, as borders closed, stock markets fell and the number of ill and dead continued to climb exponentially, I had to learn to breathe again.

Do not fear.  I am with you.

As I left a family raw with grief and walked through hospital hallways filled with medical personnel wearing gowns and masks screening people as they entered, I had to learn to breathe again:

Do not be afraid.  For I am your God.

As I watched neighbours come out on their porches and join in singing nursery rhymes, as I heard of people speak of calling neighbours and finding new ways to connect and help each other while remaining at healthy distances, I had to learn to breathe again:

I will strengthen you.  I will help you.

Some of you will remember two weeks ago, I wrestled with the question: What is God?  Really?  And some of you may remember that I quoted Michael Dowd and said that God is the “mythic personification of reality”.

Years from now, when the story is told of this moment in the long unfolding of creation, we will speak of the God in the helpers… 

We will speak of God in the medical administrators and public health officials who are working tirelessly for the health of a nation… and the world…

We will speak of God in those who have wiped down shopping carts, packed groceries and made deliveries and worked hard to find new ways to bring us together…

We will speak of those who led songs on the porches and balconies the world over, we will speak of those who started putting hearts in window, and turning on Christmas lights again to chase back the night.  We will speak of those who wrote songs and poems – those who helped us give voice to the the unspeakable – and our deepest longing…

We will speak of how in the midst of Federal and Provincial minority governments, politicians came together and worked quickly for the greater good to assist those affect by the economic fallout…

And we will speak of doctors and nurses and cleaning staff and all the other front line workers in clinics and hospitals who have worked selflessly and tirelessly, living in forced isolation, that others might be nurtured to health…

One day in time, this moment will be a myth – a story with deep moral and meaning from which I hope we’ll have learned, to be our better selves… and, learned more fully the lesson that there is no us and them – only us – in this together.

I cannot say it better than a poem I came across on Facebook so I won’t try – I’ll just read her words – Laura Kelly Fanucci (with permission):

When this is over,

may we never again

take for granted 

A handshake with a stranger

Full shelves at the store

Conversations with neighbours

A crowed theatre

Friday night out

The taste of communion

A routine check up

The school rush each morning

Coffee with a friend

The Stadium roaring

Each deep breath

A boring Tuesday

Life itself.

When this ends

May we find

That we have become

More like the people 

We wanted to be

We were called to be

We hoped to be 

And may we stay that way –

Better for each other

Because of the worst.

But until it is over, may we breathe – deeply:

Do not fear.  I am with you.

Do not be afraid.  For I am your God.

And as we breathe, may we continue to be love to one another.

Go through your phone contacts and call three people each day – just to connect and say hello.  I promise, what you thought would be a five minute conversation will turn into more… for if you let it happen, you will meet each other in your vulnerability.

Embrace this time of self-isolation, sheltering in place and social distancing – yes, embrace it.  Take time to be present to your own thoughts and feelings – walk, write, look at old photos, sing in the shower.  Find new ways to connect with your family – play board games, cook together, start a craft project… and as you go inward your appreciation for all that which is outward will become ever more profound.

Give something away.  Donate food to the foodbank.  Make an extra donation to your favourite charity.  Leave some muffins on your neighbours doorstep… as you share the light and love it will burn ever more brightly within you.

And breathe:

Do not fear.  I am with you.

Do not be afraid.  For I am your God.

I will strengthen you.  I will help you.

I will uphold you with my strong hands.

As I breathed these  words over and over again this past week, I have been held and cared for by many – with words of encouragement, with food and drink, helping hands, and gentle space filled with prayers and laugher… able to continue this ministry we share – may it be so for you as well.

This breathing, this love shared, God present within us and among us, leads me to be able to say with ancient mystic, Julien of Norwich, as sung by Linnea Good, “all shall be well again I know”  for together, we, us together, we will carry hope for each other – this day and every day.  Amen.

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