Last week, I was in Kona for the Diocesan Convention. After lunch on Friday, I sat outside of the meeting space and looked out at the vast fields of black lava rock. I thought about the presence of Pele on this island – what I know about her, the ways I feel her, and what she does.
I thought about the destruction lava causes.
Lava is molten, sticky, fire. It burns up everything in it’s path, consuming what used to be and leaving itself behind. In Puna this year, many families and individuals have been forced out of their homes. The destruction of lava has been tangible for them – eating up homes, roads, properties, and even power lines.
I thought about the effect of lava.
At convention, we talked about the holy spirit – who, we are told in Scripture, is like a dove; like a breath of wind; like a spirit of presence; like a fire. This last metaphor, the Spirit like a fire, is the one I was struck by. We make the Spirit gentle – I remember a feminist theologian who, in talking about the Trinity, says, “Oh yes – two men and a bird”. We have domesticated the spirit – but, in thinking about Her as fire, I think we need to remember the power She holds.
Fire is not gentle – it is harsh. Powerful. Uncontrollable. It destroys what it finds. We talk about fire as refining, but in fact it burns away much of what is not necessary – which is scary. And, often, painful.
But then, I thought about the potential it leaves.
Lava destroys, yes – but it doesn’t just burn things up into the atmosphere – it consumes them. Volcanic soil is some fo the most mineral-rich soil to grow in. The lava has condensed all of the nutrients of the material it eats, and gives a new place for growth. Lava flows create new land, literally making space where there wasn’t any before – making a way out of no way.
I think the Holy Spirit might be a bit like lava – like this hot magma, bubbling up from the very foundations of the earth, creating something new for us. There is something to be in awe of – and something to be cautious of – but also something to be inspired by.
In this church, I pray the Spirit moves like lava.
Last week, I went to Chicago, to visit Bree. I unplugged almost completely – I didn’t do work while I was there, resisting the urge to “get a jump” on some of the projects I’ve been working on. Instead, I committed to being in the moment with her — and enjoying the gift of our time together, after a couple of months apart.
I got to see where she is living, going to school, and working – I tend to be a visual / experiential person, so it meant a lot to me to be able to get a sense of the rhythm of her life.
Life can get really busy — and this job comes with a lot of challenges. I went almost immediately from school into ordination and then began work – and it is my first salaried job position. There has been a lot of change and adjusting!
On Sunday when I was with her, I sat in the pews of Our Savior’s Lutheran church, where she is serving – and I just got to be. I didn’t have any responsibilities, or things to remember — and I entered worship in a completely different way.
I felt God moving in the stillness that my mind and heart found – I was able to settle and not be concerned with what came next in the service. I do feel worship-full on Sundays here, but there is also often other stuff which pops into my head. It isn’t unusual for me to write little notes to myself on my bulletin – either about something in the service or about a new idea I have for next week. But, being in this church was different – because I wasn’t in charge of anything. I didn’t need to remember things – I could just sit, and be.
I am so grateful for this time away of rest and rejuvenation – and I so pray that this is part of what parishioners at St Peter’s experience. I pray that when you walk through the big blue doors you find yourself taken care of by someone else – and able to settle, and let go – and, in that stillness, I pray you feel God’s beautiful spirit rustling inside of you.
Yesterday, we went bowling with the St Peter’s youth group. This group is new – for middle and high school aged youth. We started with just three kids, at our first gathering – then five, at our second – and yesterday afternoon we had 11! I was excited to see such growth so quickly – although, we of course have a lot of room to continue growing.
Every time we get together, we do a short devotion. Last night, our devotion focused on Psalm 139 – reminding one another that we have been made in God’s image. We asked the youth to each come up with one thing they liked about themselves – and, though they eventually did, it was interesting to note how long it took for them to shift their thinking.
This is not applicable to youth alone – I know I, too, can find myself in patterns of destructive thinking. We get so used to thinking about what we are bad at – thinking of those things which others do better, or the ways that we don’t live up to our own impossible standards.
When is the last time you looked in the mirror, and affirmed the image of God? When is the last time you looked at yourself and thought, “I rock!”
This is not a call to pride or self-aggrandisement – and there is definitely something to be said for the humility it takes to see our own faults and flaws honestly – but, I think, much of the time, we forget to see the good we have in us – and we forget to affirm the God in us.
So, I give you the same thought that I gave to the youth – remember that you are valued and held by God, and made in God’s image.
Recently, I started back with my hula halau. I joined first when I was young – and was part of the halau for a few years, from ages 9-11 or so. Then, I got really busy at school, and wanted the flexibility to try out more after school activities – so I stepped back.
When I was in school, and away from home, I often thought about what it would be like to move back. I thought about what I would be able to do, and practice, of Hawaiian culture, which wasn’t available to me outside of Hawaii. Hula was one of the things I sometimes thought about – the discipline of it, and the commitment. I thought about the way that it connected me to being Hawaiian – to an embodiment of culture, in a certain way.
The practice of hula is hard. It’s hard to motivate myself to go, on a Wednesday evening, which makes my week feel long. It’s hard to be with people I don’t know very well yet, and to try to coordinate my hands and feet and hips to move independently of one another and yet stay coordinated and graceful. I leave class sweating, having worked my body and mind pretty intensely for an hour.
There is also something in it, though, which is profound, and deep, and meaningful. This is a practice which has been continued for hundreds of years. There is a line of ancestors who are dancers, who I can feel in the room with me, while I practice.
There is a softness that hula is teaching me – soft feet, soft hands – the practice of walking gently on the earth. It is teaching me, in part, to be softer with myself, forgiving for when I can’t get the choreography right. It is teaching me to allow my body to be soft. This world so often requires a harshness – and, especially as a young woman, I often feel I am walking out of my house and putting my game face on, armouring myself in some way for what might lie ahead. Inside of the classroom space, armour is shed – instead, a big skirt is put on, and movement is soft and fluid.
There is something spiritual in this practice, for me. This week I have begun working through the book “grounded in prayer”, which I am reading with our prayer circle. One of the reflections was about ways we might pray with our bodies – and hula is like that, for me.
It is my prayer.