Just breathe

What if every time we breathed, we were saying God’s name?

Richard Rohr just exploded my brains with this possibility.  (It was quite messy.  Sorry about how my brains splattered the book case, by the way.)  It begins with the word that we often translate as Yahwew.  In ancient Hebrew, vowels aren’t written down; the reader is left inferring whichever ones go in.  So as it is written, God’s name ends up being something like ‘YHWW’.  Apparently, in Hebrew, these are the only consonants that don’t employ the tongue or allow the lips to close; making the sounds is an imitation of breath itself.

This is a small, thing.  Perhaps even a stretch, to go from the sounds to the idea that it is a breath.  But…  BUT!  If it is right, there are so many incredible ramifications of this idea…

Rohr begins with the idea that the first thing we do, when we leave our mothers’ wombs, is to say God’s name.  And the last thing we do, before we leave this world, is to say God’s name.  And the thing we do, millions of times, forever, over and over in our lives: we say God’s name.

He is way smarter than me.  He has probably spoken about the following things, which also seem to flow out of the idea that God’s name is something like breath itself.  But the following observations are my own:

The thing we all know to do in times of panic, is to breathe: we say God’s name.  The foundation of nearly all the great contemplative prayer, meditation, and mindfullness traditions is the breathe: God’s name…

The bible is filled with God breathing into things.  In chapter 2 of Genesis, God brings life to Adam by breathing into him.  How awesome and crazy to think that God would say his name, and that this would bring life to our original ancestor.  One of the things that makes me reel, about this possibility, is the way it paints a picture of God’s self existence; the way it points to the idea that God creates out of nothing; it is only his own very name which gives birth to man.

Going backwards a bit, into chapter 1 of Genesis, there is another event.  It was one of those wierd times when a bunch of translations of the bible all went to have a steel caged wrestling match to determine who’s right.  Because God is hovering over the waters, and sometimes it is God breathing, and other times it is God floating, and sometimes it is the wind.

And this leads to the possibility of the wind!

Wind is a sort-of breathe, of course.  Often a symbol of the holy spirit.  And Jesus is of course a word, a primal word from God.  What word could he be?  Could he be anything other than God’s own name?  Here, maybe, is a snap shot of the trinity, one and three, distinct and indistinguishable: God’s self, God’s wind, and God’s breathe/name…  Am I grasping yet?  Maybe, but I have this whole idea about the verse that says all scripture is God-breathed, or (divinely inspired) Because this leaves us with the paradox that the bible itself is in fact just a thousand-page long statement of God’s name, over and over and over…

Sometimes I feel dizzy and awestruck and just amazed to be in the middle of this crazy creation.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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