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Inhale/exhale: for most of us, breathing is an unconscious process but vital for living. For those with pulmonary issues, though, breathing becomes conscious and maintains intimate contact with reality. Accustomed defense mechanisms cease; in their absence, emotional honesty deepens, and the search for the meaningful increases.

Such has been my experience. My daily dependence upon medicines dispensed through a nebulizer, morning and evening, continue treating my hardening air sacs and teaching me, as well, through listening to the world around me.

This morning, a dear friend shared a significant quote from the fifteenth-century Indian poet and mystic Kabr:  

What is God? the student asked? He is the breath inside the breath.

I was already familiar with the Hebrew word, ruah, signifying God’s breath and or spirit, used in the two Genesis stories and in Pentecost’s gift of tongues, found in the Acts of the Apostles. Decades of meditations on this concept seemed to postulate a God, outside of me who somehow cared and protected me for long years. But Kabr’s experience of God as Breath has revolutionized my sense of Him, and the use of the nebulizer.

Ordinarily an exhausting and boring treatment requiring a minimum of seventy inhalations, each one now begins with awareness of emptied lungs, slowly filling them until unable to take another breath, but taking another, sometimes two, that touches my Essence—admittedly, a different way to meditate but it works.

I suspect this practice of Kabir’s understanding must alleviate the sting of physical death. There’s no record of his own.

 

 

Who is this woman serving Jesus in the home she shared with her siblings Mary and Lazarus, outside of Jerusalem? Why still venerated among Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Eastern Orthodox Catholics whose feast day is celebrated today?

Her name is Martha, derived from the Aramaic, “the mistress,” or “the lady.” Outgoing, practical, accustomed to hard work, she recognized something special about Jesus and was the first to offer hospitality. A frequent guest when needing respite from teaching, he enjoyed her friendship and meals. However, his attraction to Mary’s spirit irritated Martha and drew her feisty complaint, recounted in Luke’s Gospel and still viewed as pejorative.

However, there’s more to Martha. She, it was, who first understood Jesus’s statement, “I am the resurrection and the life.” following the death of Lazarus in John’s Gospel. Instinctively, she knew who he really was and blurted, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world.” Unlike her sister’s mysticism, hers was grounded in the here and now.

On this day, I also celebrate my younger sister Martha who takes after her namesake. Quick to discern others’ needs, even quicker to offer practical help lightened by humor, she has supported my diminishing health with nightly phone calls. When in town, she has completed errands, sat with me in emergency rooms, drove me to appointments, bought special foods, even cut my hair several times. And always, the “Do you remember when…” stories that deepened compassion for our past and our having survived it.

Martha is currently sitting by the bedside of her former husband, receiving hospice care in a Toledo, Ohio nursing home. That’s what she does…

 

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