Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

"hope it is a great trip and will exceed your expectations. It seems to me that is how God often works - exceeding whatever it is we can imagine! Praying for your safety and air in your tires while you are traveling! You can probably get some kind of blog post out of that -your priest praying for air - some connection with the breath of life."
--portion of e-mail from our parish's priest associate

Well, there's a story in this, of course...

For the two weeks prior to my trip out to Casper, Wyoming, I dealt with a pesky flat tire problem. Four flats in 2 weeks--all the same tire. It eventually resulted in me replacing the tire just before I left. I was getting a lot of razzing from various sources about that.

Our parish's priest associate is pretty down to earth and practical. Her spontaneous prayers are pretty straightforward and not at all lofty and ethereal. So I got a pretty good grin about her actually praying for air--specifically the air in my tires. It seems like "praying for nothing" but in this case, air is everything.

I had read her e-mail en route, and it got me to thinking on the 14.5 hour drive about all four of the elements--how the Holy Spirit is fire, and how the "bread of life" comes from the earth, and how our lives are connected by the waters of baptism--but particularly about that "breath of life" in each of us.

Without that air in my tires, at a pressure higher than that outside the tire, we're sunk on any car trip, whether it's to the grocery store, or halfway across the country. We can no longer move forward. This is not as easy as it seems. For that air to stay in that tire, at the proper pressure, it requires a sturdy and solid tire with no holes AND a wheel rim on that tire that allows the tire to fit properly to the wheel. It has to be the right size of tire.

In a sense, that air within the tire, under the right amount of pressure, becomes "more than air." It becomes something solid. Too little and you either have a flat or risk damaging the walls of the tire via under-inflation. Too much and the tire may develop a breach when hitting a road hazard that the tire ordinarily would handle fine.

The Hebrew word used for "breath of life" in the Genesis creation story is "nyshamah." It is a word not used much beyond the early books in the Old Testament. "Nyshamah" is not an easy word to translate. It means a type of "breath" that is a combination of human breath, God's breath (spirit), and the breath of every living thing. It also implies a "creative breath" and is used contextually in the Old Testament in the theme of creation.

This is a little different than the Greek word "Pneuma," although that is how the Greeks translated "Nyshamah." "Pneuma" implies a certain degree of "wind" or "movement," such as the moving of the Holy Spirit. In looking at the two words in online lexicons, I don't think they are exactly the same. "Nyshamah" is more like the air in the tire--air that just IS, air that is simply "our being"--whether the tire moves or not. It's air that gives us shape and form and purpose.

What it makes me realize that a very simple prayer for a very simple thing--air in our tires--becomes very profound when we think of the air in our spiritual tires. What a wonderful prayer it makes to pray for the element that shapes our being, enables us to move OR simply stand still, and challenges us to journey with God despite the road hazards!

2 comments:

Actually, it's "Ruach" (spirit/air/wind) -- "neshamah" is more like "soul" -- but this is a beautiful reflection. Reminds me also of the sermon by Gawain De Leeuw which I just posted to FB on "breathing room." Thank you.

I'm just goin' with what my lexicon uses in Gen 2:7 and 7:22! (wink.)

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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