Last night, as day slipped into night and Jeff and I took our evening walk, a fierce wind kicked up, stinging our faces and making my ears hurt. It made us walk faster and quieted our conversation as we pushed against that angry hum. “Storm’s coming our way,” Jeff said, as he pulled his collar up around his chin.
Sure enough, this morning we awaken to a shiver of white and when I take Bonnie around the house the wind blows snow from the tree limbs to create our own personal blizzard. Bonnie adores the snow, in small doses, and she runs as fast as she can in circles all around the yard. Her joy energizes and I laugh out loud at her clownish ways.
School is on a two hour delay and thus, so am I—everything pushed back to accommodate the weather. These snowy mornings have a way of slowing me down, of assuring me the pressing worries will wait. There are so many things I dream of doing with my days but the weather whispers in my ear, to be present is enough. And so I am more aware of my breathing, and I move in gratitude for this body.
In my reading of Wayne Muller’s book Sabbath this morning, he tells the story of a woman who dedicated her life to spiritual seeking. She traveled all over the world and studied under many teachers. She confessed that as she grew older these experiences held little satisfaction. She was growing weary and wondering how much longer she could continue the quest. Wise Muller asked her, “You have been a seeker for so long. Why not become a finder?” The thought gave her such freedom and delight.
“In the Hebrew tradition,” Muller says, “petitionary prayer is discouraged during Sabbath time. We focus our heart not on what we need, but rather on what we have …”
When I focus my heart on what I hold in my hands, it is more than enough. This small world is big enough to fill. And God is always at work. Yesterday, I received a letter from a dear woman who worships at one of the little churches I preached at recently. She thanked me for the message I shared and expressed some deeply personal ways God used my words to move within her. What a gift to hold her words. Life has been preoccupied lately—too many irons in the fire. I have had trouble hearing God’s voice amidst the busy. But all these little things, they tune my ear to the Divine voice.
In the Bible study our women’s group just began reading, the author talks about the small, almost imperceptible changes God makes in our lives. To illustrate her point, she uses the story of how God changed Abraham and Sarah’s names.
Abram and Sarai each received the same letter as an addition to their names. In Hebrew the letter is called “Hey” (similar to our “H”). Abram became Abraham and Sarai became Sarah.
In Hebrew, letters have significance beyond just a pronounced sound. Each character of the Hebrew alphabet is infused with meaning. The letter Hey, for example, also signifies the number five, since it’s the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Hey sometimes represents the divine breath, revelation, and light. In some Jewish teachings, Hey is a picture of the presence of God within the human heart. Adding Hey at the very end of a Hebrew noun gives the word a feminine character, which can metaphorically mean the word has become “fruitful” or reproductive.
When I read these words I remembered the alphabet pictures my teacher would hang above the blackboard in the early grades. “A” was always an apple. “B” would be given a ball. “C” might be a cat or a coat. The trickier letters could almost always be guaranteed to display the same picture from grade to grade: “U” would be an umbrella. “X” was a skeletal depiction of an x-ray. “Z” was the happy zebra. I wonder, what would the alphabet card for “Hey” be? The presence of God in a human heart—what does this look like? Divine breath, revelation, light … the birth of fruitfulness … I wonder.
But don’t I know, really? Writing a letter to affirm a lay preacher. Bonnie, sprinting joyfully through the snow. Pressing against the wind with my husband at my side. Slowing to live in gratitude for all that has a claim on my heart.
Aren’t these all the breath of God? These tiny, imperceptible ripples in my day—they rise up and say, “Hey.” But only when I dip to meet them. Only when I slow enough to hear the “h” on the end of each moment.