The Breath of Life

CREATE A SACRED TIME AND SPACE
Leave all screens turned off and outside of the gathering space/room.
Set a single candle in the center of your space or on a child’s nightstand or headboard.

As you light the candle, you might sing or say, Veni Sancte Spiritus (Holy Spirit, Come to Us)1
Latin:
Veni Sancte Spiritus.
Veni Sancte Spiritus.

English:
Holy Spirit, come to us.
Holy Spirit, come to us.

Add the verses as you feel called to do so:
Come, Holy Spirit, from heaven shine forth with your glorious light.
Veni Sancte Spiritus.

Come from the four winds, O Spirit, come, Breath of God;
disperse the shadows over us, renew and strengthen your people.
Veni Sancte Spiritus.


TAKE A MOMENT
This is a time to become fully present with one another and with God.
Invite everyone to take a deep breath in and exhale fully.
Repeat this deep breathing for about 20 seconds, everyone at their own pace.

LET GO & RECEIVE
Excitement over past or future events - or, worries, pain and/or guilt - can keep us from immersing in God’s loving Presence, right here and now.

You might invite participants to Let Go as follows:

“In one or two words, how have you lived as your little self, today?”

Allow time for a response from each individual.

Breathe in: know that you are, right now, being filled with the Holy Spirit and the light of God.
Breathe out: release into grace any guilt, shame or pain caused by letting your ego be your guide, today.

Pause

You might invite participants to Receive Grace as follows:

“How have you lived as your True Self, today?

Allow time for a response from each individual.

Breathe in: notice how the Spirit is as close to you as your breath.
Breathe out: thank God for living within you each day.”

Pause


READING SUMMARY
Before moving on, take two more deep breaths.

Then share a summary of this evening’s text. Using your own words is strongly encouraged. If that feels uncomfortable or overwhelming, or if you would like a young person to lead this portion, here are some thoughts on this story:


The story of the dry bones is semi-familiar to a lot of us and feels most significant when read in times of uncertainty. When many people are afraid, feeling sick, or lonely, or depressed or anxious: we can feel like a whole nation of dry bones: people walking around with no direction, no goals; with more dread than energy.
But the promise in this text is that we are not alone in our suffering: even when we feel the most dead, God has a promised future for us. The Holy Spirit, God’s greatest gift, is blowing through us, bringing new life, energy, determination and hope.
The Breath of God is, after all, what brought all of creation to life, especially and particularly human beings. We are, right now, filled with God’s Breath of Life. We are not dead. We are not doomed. We are full of the life-giving, in-dwelling Holy Spirit. With that power flowing in and through us every day, all sorts of things are possible; all sorts of life is possible.


SHARING THE READING
Readings can be shared around the circle by verse, or a different reader can lead each night.

A reading from Ezekiel 37:1-142

1The hand of YHWH was upon me, and it carried me away by the Spirit of YHWH and set me down in a valley - a valley full of bones. 2 God made me walk up and down among them. And I saw that there was a vast number of bones lying there in the valley, and they were very dry. 3God asked me, “Mere mortal, can these bones live?”
I answered, “Only you know that, Sovereign YHWH.”
4And God said, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: ‘Dry bones, hear the word of YHWH! 5Sovereign YHWH says to these bones: I am going to breathe life into you. 6I will fasten sinews on you, clothe you with flesh, cover you with skin, and give you breath. And you will live; and you will know that I am Sovereign YHWH.’”
7So I prophesied as I was commanded, and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and all the bones came together, bone to matching bone. 8As I watched, sinews appeared on them, flesh clothed them, and skin covered them. But there was no breath in them.
9Then God said to me, “Prophesy to the wind; prophesy, mere mortal, and say to it: ‘Thus says Sovereign YHWH: Approach from the four winds, Breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’”
10I prophesied as I was commanded, and breath came into them; they came alive, and stood up on their feet - a vast multitude.
11Then God said to me, “Mere mortal, these bones are the whole House of Israel. The people keep saying, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is gone, and we are doomed.’ 12Prophesy, therefore, and say to them, ‘Thus says Sovereign YHWH: I am going to open your graves and raise you up from the dead, my people. I will return you to the land of Israel. 13When I open your graves and raise you up, you my people, will know that I am YHWH. 14Then I will put my Spirit into you and you will return to life, and I will settle you back on your own land. Then you will know that I, YHWH, have spoken and made all this happen, says Sovereign YHWH.’”

DISCUSS
At the close of the reading you might begin with basic questions, such as:
Did this reading have any words or ideas that anyone doesn’t understand?
Let’s explore what those might mean, together.

If you are ready for further discussion, you might consider these questions:
*What does it mean to you that the Holy Spirit lives in you?
*How do you feel the Breath of God flowing through you? Breathing in you?
*Do you think God’s promise to breathe new life into dry bones is a promise God still 
keeps, today?
*Where have you seen this promise come true? Where do you think this promise 
needs to come true, right now?


CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE
From your devotional basket, please take the following items:
~Notebook or binder for everyone
~Drawing or coloring utensil(s) for everyone

Be sure notebooks/binders and utensils are handy but not a distraction.
You might invite the group into prayer with these or similar prompts:

I invite everyone to find a comfortable posture appropriate to prayer and I encourage everyone to close their eyes.

Allow a few beats for the movement to settle down.

Let’s all take a few deep breaths to settle our minds:
~let go of the discussion questions and conversation;
~let go of the Bible story;
~let yourself rest for a moment in the love of your family and the presence of
God.

After a few deep breaths, share the following:

Notice your breath.
Notice the physical sensations of breathing in:
the feel of the cool air in your nostrils;
the movement of your rib cage as you inhale;
the expansion of your abdomen as you welcome air in;
the physical pause before you exhale...

Pause

Notice your breath.
Notice the physical sensations of breathing out:
the contraction of your abdomen as you exhale;
the muscles of your torso as they push air out;
the feel of warm air flowing through your nostrils;
the pause before you inhale...

Pause

Notice your breath.
Notice each breath in and each breath out.

Pause

Consider for a few minutes that your breath is like the Breath of God.
As you feel the physical sensations of your breath moving in and out of our body,
feel, 
pay attention to,
notice how the Breath of God flows through you.
With each breath, recognize that the Spirit is as close to you, closer to you, than the air 
you breathe.

Take a longer pause

At the end of your silent time, invite attention back to the room with words like these:

I invite you to return your awareness to this place.
You might wiggle your toes and fingers or gently roll your shoulders or your head.
Slowly bring your body and mind back to here and now, and rest for a moment.

Resting is important: the transition from silence to immediate action or thought can be very jarring. Let the movement from rest to engagement be gentle.

PERSONAL REFLECTION
After a few beats, while people are still transitioning, introduce the reflection questions, as follows:

As we bring our awareness back to here and now, let’s consider how God was with us 
in this time. 
What does it mean to you that God’s Spirit is nearer to you than your own breath?
Reflect on a thought or feeling that seemed powerful or meaningful to you.
Where or in what way did you experience God in this time?

Allow about 3-5 minutes; gauge the activity-level of participants to determine when they are “done”.
Invite people to share their reflections with the group/family, only as they are comfortable. Not everyone will have something to share or feel comfortable sharing their experience. Let this be okay: not everyone needs to share.

Listen carefully to one another.
Acknowledge each sharing with words of affirmation.
Discussion can and should be about curiosity, clarity and/or affirmation.
This is not a time for correction or psycho-analyzing experiences.

BEDTIME SONG
As the following song is sung or said, the Leader should gather all materials utilized during the practice. Stow them in the basket for easy removal and future use.

As adults prepare to leave the room, you might sing or say, Veni Sancte Spiritus (Holy Spirit, Come to Us)1
Latin:
Veni Sancte Spiritus.
Veni Sancte Spiritus.

English:
Holy Spirit, come to us.
Holy Spirit, come to us.

Add the verses as you feel called to do so:
Come, Holy Spirit, from heaven shine forth with your glorious light.
Veni Sancte Spiritus.

Come from the four winds, O Spirit, come, Breath of God;
disperse the shadows over us, renew and strengthen your people.
Veni Sancte Spiritus.


FINAL BLESSING
As they blow out the candle, children can offer the following blessing/prayer with their adults:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”

Adult(s) can share the following blessing/prayer with the child[ren] as they turn out the lights:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”


  1. With One Voice, Augsburg Fortress; 1995: #686.
  2. From The Inclusive Bible (Rowman & Littlefield; 2007). Used with permission from The Quixote Center.

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