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AfterWords | Animated (September 3, 2023)

AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.

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A 3-Minute Read
by Katherine Carrier

In my college Spanish class, I remember learning how to say windshield wipers en Espanol.   Limpiar para brisas, broken down, para brisas = for breezes, and limpiar = to clean. This phrase took hold of my “mature college student” imagination and I pictured little hands, with Minnie Mouse gloves attached to sticks getting water off with each pass. Your mind is probably already where mine went next, back to the English WINDSHIELD. Oh. Same thing — yes, except boring. WIPERS. Again, same thing, only more boring.  As someone acquiring the English language as a small child, I learned the whole phrase as one, windshield wipers, a serious automotive engineering thingie, but even as a small child, never thought of little white Minnie Mouse gloves clearing our view. I prefer how the Spanish language informed my mental imagery and brought a simple mechanical device to life.

One translation of how the early church acted, from the Book of Acts, and read by Jordan Sunday:

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Sadly, I know that these words have accumulated in my mind alongside other phrases like “to have a devotion” and “windshield wipers.”  They have been filed correctly with words falling in similar technical categories, understood at a cerebral level, even cracked and worn from usage, but when I take a good look at them, I see that, though used frequently, they are stale and clinical, and certainly, not  animated.  Even to have a devotion is just to open a book and put more words in my mind. What can we do about this? How can we animate the text? Add the fire emoji? Put it on TikTok with this past Sunday’s tight harmonies and fluid keyboard and guitar melodies? So good by the way.

I sort through other thinks up in my head. I grow quiet so my mind can work. It’s really quiet and I feel my heart pump, “hey, I’m still here, you know, keeping the beat” and I feel my lips smile around the little joke my heart just shared. My lungs deftly and easily rise and fall around my heart as I become still and they are so stealth, giving me exactly the air I need for my activity level. My eyebrows rise slightly in a knowing appreciation for my lungs. This little interaction between my heart and lips, lungs and brows is quickly tapped out onto my keyboard by fingertips that don’t even tax the mind for directional cues. And now, my body sits and waits for my mind to catch up.

All these phrases from your Sunday School days are in your head, child, but — ouch, I feel the question stinging already — are they in your body?  Seriously, what am I practicing? What am I acting upon? Are my devotions like the ones in Acts? Because the text says they were “devoting themselves…”

For my Afterwords, I wanted to revisit something Jordan said that I tried to jot down before he said another something that I wanted to jot down, “At The Parish we are about _________.”  But Jordan says so much that I want to jot down.   I thought it would be on the website so I left my jotted notes incomplete. Then, before I sat to unleash my fingertips on the keyboard, I went to the Parish website and clicked the “About” link.  I read each statement, looking for the words to complete the unfinished phrase I jotted.  I couldn’t find a match in the game but I sat quietly, with my heart and lungs and lips and brows quiet, and I let the statements pour into my mind, and I let them steep, and I let them soak into my body.

Our society has come so far from simple printed words. As a young worker, I had to take my marketing pieces to a fancy print shop to be put on paper in quantities to reach all our targets. It seems now with all of our apps, with an emoji for every emotion, with talking images held in our palms, with AI assimilating unfathomable bits of data from everyone and everywhere into — well anything we ask for, that with all of this, there would be more life in words.  As it turns out, there’s just life in life.  And life has to be lived.  The actors in Acts “devoted themselves…”

Can faith be relegated to words shoved into mental filing cabinets? James, the brother of Jesus told us that faith without works is dead. To translate this for my own imagination, faith must be animated to be alive.

In yoga, I have found that after I put my body in the many shapes in succession, I can build from easy shapes to physically demanding shapes, shapes I could never, nor should never do without doing the easy shapes first. Then after all of this, I find an integration in my body. My breath is more even. I am physically and emotionally at rest and my mind is quiet.

Somehow an ancient Eastern tradition unrelated to Christianity is helping my body come into stillness, helping my mind be present in a single moment, and helping my soul understand that much of my faith has been relegated to just the cerebral section of my being.  Sunday as Jordan spoke and tonight, when my body became still and I read the words in the Parish “About” link, I sensed the Spirit giving me a broad invitation, a knock to my heart’s door, to employ the ancient practices and to do the things in the “About” link. And the mental file cabinets opened and so many words fluttered out and around my heart, words from a thousand different sources and absorbed at random times, all filed away but now present, reanimated  and ready to be embodied — by this body.

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