A friend of mine needed a sabbatical. He wanted to spend a year tending to his spirit, reading what would edify and delight him, cooking good food, and just being with himself.
Holding the Ember
He had the money to do it. He even had a job that took him back after he did some other work. But it was scary.
It was terrifying him for all kinds of reasons I won’t go into here. But it seemed hardly possible. It seemed like a tiny ember he held in his hands, not burning him, but inviting his breath. Inviting him to keep it alive with his own body’s heat and wind.
And so he did.
He blew on his ember. And his dream became a reality. He spent a year attending to his own heart and mind. Of course, as these things go, it didn’t move along as he had planned to begin with, but it was nonetheless beautiful.
What are the embers you carry with you?
What are the embers in the cauldron of your heart? What are the embers in the hearth of the center of your heart?
Embers Turn to Fire
What is the ember that you are desperately afraid will go out and turn to ash if you don’t feel it, tend it, blow on it? What is the ember you desperately hope will turn to fire, to flame?
I have had many such embers, and I’m quite sure you have too.
One of mine was the idea of going to seminary. I was in my mid-thirties and I hadn’t yet finished my undergraduate degree. Bipolar illness and ADD had stood in my way the first time around. But with the help of many people, especially my persistent, smart, experienced spouse, I made it through with honors the second time around.
But becoming a minister?
I have been a religious leader or active member of a religious community since I was 8 years old. Since I was 5 or 6, I have been fascinated with the idea of God, Spirit, whatever you want to call It/Them. When I was 6, I called It God.
My wife encouraged me, my mother encouraged me, and finally I reached deep into my heart and admitted that I wanted so terribly, so, so terribly to become a religious leader in a new way. And to go and study and learn and struggle to do it.
So I blew on my ember. I fed it little sticks I found along the way. And papers with stories I no longer needed but could help the ember in its burning. I fed that ember and blew on that ember and I held it out to God Herself and said, “I am ready. Take me. I’ll go.”
And I did.
And She did. She took me to seminary.
And here I am in a congregational ministry, just where I thought I’d be, just where I’d planned, just where my robust health support me…oh wait, that’s not it at all!
The Fire is Different from the Ember
I am not in congregational ministry. I am not where I thought I’d be. I do not have the robust health I’d hoped to have. The fire is shaped differently from the ember.
And yet, I am happier in my work than ever before in my life. I meet with you face-to-face. I host online retreats that are deep, powerful, and affordable. And I offer courses like the one starting this Thursday. That’s not all, but that’s enough for this conversation.
I blew on my ember and what burst into fire, into flame, was something I couldn’t have imagined before—until I did! Until the Spirit of in-spirit-ation came to me and I began to write to YOU.
This blog post is a taste of what we’ll be doing in The Elemental Wisdom of Fire. A taste of the reflection, the contemplation, the questioning and answering, the listening and sharing.
The hearth and its embers will be the content of our first Fire class, this coming Thursday at 8:15 Eastern and 5:15 Pacific. Please do join us. I’m going to run the class no matter how many or how few register. In any case, it will be six hours over four weekly classes and worth every minute!