Archives, Biography, Pondering, Wheaton


Last March I had the incredible privilege of staying in a 14th century Pele tower in Northumbria.  It’s bay-shaped windows faced north toward Scotland in a tower that was originally intended to protect the family fortress from marauders from the north.

Unfortunately, it could not protect me from the tiny marauders within.  I’m quite allergic to dust mites, and the intervening seven centuries had evidently bred host upon host of these tiny little beasties in my treasured bedroom.

The second evening I was praying Compline with the Northumbria Community in their simple, holy chapel made of wood with a dirt floor.  We prayed by candlelight in an inky black world.  And when we were finished, we were to blow out our candles and leave quietly.

Only my candle stayed lit.  No matter how I puffed I didn’t move the flame at all.  And then it hit me.  I hadn’t really been breathing well all day.  Oh.  I need my inhaler.  The age-old dust mites had taken residence in my lungs.

Ruach. Breath, “The Lord God breathed into the man and he became a living being.”

To travel in this country with its thin places, we always start from what we know to what we don’t know.  So we know what it means to breathe (or not, if your lungs are populated with seven centuries of dust mites), and then this human action is connected to a spiritual one. “He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

We catch a glimpse of “spirit” because we understand “breath.”  To  breathe is to remain alive, to nourish millions of tiny cells within. To breathe deeply without effort is one of the simple signs of wellness.   To struggle to breathe is to know oneself out-of-control, in trouble.  It is a condition for concern.

I’m breathing much better today, thanks to my inhaler, and as I do, I also thank the Holy Spirit of God for coming to breathe in me.  To open my spiritual lungs and fill them again and again with His life-giving Spirit.  I marvel at his presence as near as my next breath, renewing my spiritual cells with Holy Spirit oxygen.

And as I breathe, I thank the Spirit of the living God for using the simple things I do know to draw me into the vast country resting near the altar of God.

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