An hour with the Spirit

At church, we are reading Martha Grace Reese’s book, Unbinding your Heart, part of her Unbinding the Gospel series. It includes a forty-day prayer journal to follow individually as a group (as it were), praying the exercises each day and coming together once a week to share the results and experiences. Some days go better than others; some days go better for some people than for others.

Yesterday’s exercise was an hour with the Holy Spirit. For one hour, the subject was to ask the Holy Spirit’s advice and input for every decision that she made. Whether to drink tea or coffee. Whether to put the right foot in front of the left, or the other way around. The Spirit could really have some fun with this, if She wanted, and have everyone hop to work … but I didn’t see any evidence of that happening.

I had done this exercise before. It feels a bit artificial. I think if I did it right, I’d still be standing exactly where I started, waiting for the Spirit to tell me what to do. Instead, my hour was a series of negotiated settlements. But the outcome of the hour did feel something like a prayer …

I began by asking the Holy Spirit, or HS for short, whether She would like me to “do” Morning Prayer with my usual podcast, or with the book which my dear friend Luke gave me on the day we celebrated my birthday and, much more importantly, his ordination last year. “Tell me! Tell me now!” I demanded.

HS told me to quieten down, not to nag, and to ask nicely.

So I stood looking out at my back yard, with the sun shining on the growing grass, and sang Veni Spiritu Sanctus (please) for a bit.

HS liked that. She told me that she would like me to take Morning Prayer outside today, and pray while tending to the weeds and the wildflowers. I asked if I might take my antihistamine and inhaler first, and she reminded me that she was the one who gave us breath (in-spired) us in the first place, so she has a soft spot for things that keep me breathing.

We went outside and I weeded and prayed and wondered what we were doing out there. I tackled one complete section of garden in the time that it took the podcast to guide me through the Office, and I thought, “Oh, look. A little at a time counts. It works. It’s doable, and I can do it.” And the HS said, That applies to a lot of things.

I asked if I could blog about our hour together, and she said, Fine, as long as you don’t mind coming across as a crazy lady, and I said, “Well, what about you?” and I think I heard her smile.

“Tea, or water?” I asked as we came indoors.

Tea, and knitting.

“Which knitting?” I asked as I scrubbed my fingernails clean (I have three on the go). “You have to tell me!”

Have to? replied the HS. Wash your hands and watch your manners!

Tea made, knitting project chosen, HS wouldn’t let me settle in my usual couch corner. She sent me to the front room instead, where I looked out of the window onto a flower bed I’d already weeded. The sun made it sparkle. The azalea bushes were just coming into bud. Pretty!

You get to enjoy the fruits of your labours once in a while, you know, HS said.

Across the street was the house where the people live whom I had never really got to know, to whom I rarely spoke, of whom I was somewhat shy. The woman was out in the front yard with a rake, cleaning up, just like me. Just like me. Oh. I said a prayer for her.

The mail van showed up. I prayed for good news for my neighbours, and that they would each get the news intended for them – not a given with our postal delivery. The van was taking forever to get around the houses. The HS interrupted my thoughts:

Do you want it done fast, or do you want it done right?

So I waited.

When the van had passed our house, I went out to the mailbox, on purpose to say “Hello” to the lady across the road. It’s possible that HS was nudging me to go over there, but I didn’t have the shoes or the courage with me (I often walk out barefoot; I never learn any better), so instead I hovered, checking the mail till she turned around, then I yelled heartily, “Morning!” and waved, smiling broadly. She hesitated, then waved back. Baby steps, HS murmured, baby steps.

We went back indoors. The lady across the street left her rake and went indoors, too. I would have missed her if I’d waited.

I picked up my knitting, but the HS said it was time to check my gauge, so I did. Turned out, I’d picked up the wrong size needles, so I pulled out what I’d done and set it aside to start again tomorrow.

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