Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. [John 20:23]
Pentecost has come; we celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit in every element of creation. The spirit finds us and speaks to us wherever we are, in whatever language we understand. The Holy Spirit embraced this eclectic group of followers gathered on this Day of Pentecost, which is described for us in our lesson from the Acts of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit comes in the very same Breath of God that created the world.
Listen! Do you hear the Breath? Do you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit – bringing you peace; inspiring you to follow the will of God in all that you do? Be still mind; be still heart – for just a moment. The Holy Spirit surrounds us, embraces us; the Holy Spirit is seeking to speak to you.
Yikes!! There is something in all of us that is a little fearful of the movement of the Holy Spirit. We ARE known as the “Frozen Chosen.” Best to stay busy and not risk any odd sensations of spiritual direction. Pentecostalism is an “ism” we prefer to avoid exploring. It carries connotations of lots of noise and strange actions that frighten us.
In reality, though, being open to the Pentecostal presence of the Spirit requires quietude. That’s scary too! What do we do with quiet?
Disappointingly, I learned on Tuesday that my Yin Yoga class was being cancelled. Attendance had waned and the class is no longer viable. My only classmates on Thursday were a 6’7” lean Marine and a very young-looking Naval officer retiring this month.
Yin Yoga is a slow-paced Yoga in which participants hold stress-reducing poses for several minutes. In my case, I was led into a full hour of quiet meditation while allowing muscles and joints a gentle healthy morning stretch. Oh, well, it couldn’t last. My guess is that attendance waned because quietude and relaxation are undervalued.
Our lives are so stressfully full, we have no time to devote to intentional healthy stress reduction through quietude and stillness. Simply put, we are too stressed to reduce stress; we fear quietude.
Bearing this concern, my attention was attracted to an article in a newsletter from Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services regarding “comfort rooms.” Jackson-Feild began as a facility to care for children orphaned by the yellow fever epidemic of the mid-1800s. The foundation has evolved over the decades to keep their mission current in addressing the ever-changing critical needs of children. Today, JFBHS’s primary mission is directed toward the specific needs of children affected by severe trauma and abuse. Our parish supports this effort with yearly contributions and I encourage you to go to the website for more information about this significant ministry: http://www.jacksonfeild.org .
Toward this effort to address trauma and abuse, the JFBHS article describes the provision of “Comfort Rooms” in JFBHS locations. The comfort rooms are designed to be places of reduced stress, agitation, and aggressive behavior. Comfort rooms have come to be recognized as successful avenues for calming aggressive children who might previously have been subjected to seclusion or physical restraint, often leading to further emotional and physical injury.
Comfort rooms, characteristically, are inviting atmospheres – usually painted pastel green and supplied with chalkboard walls, cozy carpeting and comfortable furniture, relaxing music, and attention-stimulating activities such as puzzles, stress balls, and drawing materials. The goal is to bring calm through the stimulation of the senses in a healthy manner rather than attempting calm through efforts that stifle the senses – as would restraint or isolation in a bare room. The comfort rooms provide a safe contained environment in which a child may willingly spend time while developing healthy coping skills through natural processes – thus more safely and successfully reducing aggressive behavior.
This concept of “comfort rooms” is increasingly important for all of us of all ages. The inability to focus attention for any significant period of time, previously an expectation of youth, now creeps upward into older age groups, promoting more aggressive behavior. Yet, we get fidgety when we are called into quiet reflection. No please! Don’t leave me alone with my thoughts!!
Being out of reach of our cell phones is a cause for panic. Look around you when you are stopped at a red light. Can you find anyone who is not talking on the phone or texting or otherwise fidgeting with an electronic device – double-booking every moment? Crash statistics indicate these activities are not reserved for stopped traffic.
We all need a “comfort room” – an established space away from “the world” where we are drawn into the quiet, being inspired to experience the presence and direction of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our comfort room – Jesus promised as he was leaving his earthly ministry that he would not leave us comfortless.
We see this loss of our ability to grasp fleeting moments of quiet and relaxation taking a heavy toll on our society, culminating in ever-increasing anger and aggression in opposition to God’s will for our daily lives. God through the Holy Spirit is everywhere, but it is good to seek God first in our “comfort rooms” where we can be still and listen to God’s voice through the breath of the Holy Spirit – that same breath that breathed us into creation.
As the psalmist acknowledges in speaking of God in the Holy Spirit:
You hide your face, and they are terrified;
you take away their breath,
and they die and return to their dust.
You send forth your Spirit, and they are created;
and so you renew the face of the earth. [Psalm 104:30-31]
Find your comfort room – your source for the breath of creation. In that space, we can be still and sense the presence of God’s power as we are embraced in the breath of the Holy Spirit – the Breath of Creation. Go there for God’s guidance toward peace and relaxation and call to ministry as the Holy Spirit directs us in our relationships with one another. In the presence of the Holy Spirit, the peace of the world is our path. Receive the Holy Spirit; peace be with you.