I only came across the term “pneumataphore” in June in a post I receive daily from Abbey of the Arts.   In botany, pneumataphores are defined as a specialized respiratory root in certain aquatic plants, such as the bald cypress, that grows upward and protrudes above the water or mud into the air. But in the Abbey of the Arts post the author revealed that this term was used in the early Christian east to mean “bearers of spirit.”  It referred to both men and women who were considered to be spiritual, inspired and prophetic. I presume the connection between such disparate things as aquatic plants and “spirit bearers” is the origin of “respiratory,” “spiritual” and “inspired” from Latin having to do with the breath.  It is no coincidence that there is an entire category of “breath prayers,” short prayers that can be said in a breath, such as Kyrie Eleison ((translated “Lord, have mercy”). This all sounds quite lofty.  But we also have the word “prophetic,” which introduces another dimension entirely to that of “spirit bearer.”

“Prophet means ‘spokesman’ not ‘fortune-teller,’” Frederick Buechner writes. “The one whom in their unfathomable audacity the prophets claimed to speak for was the Lord and Creator of the universe” Tongue in cheek, he adds: “There is no evidence to suggest that anyone ever asked a prophet home for supper more than once.” And, truth be told, prophets in the Hebrew scriptures could be a pretty harsh lot, speaking unwelcome truths. 

So spirit-bearing would seem to be a high calling requiring a particular skill set.  And yet I think this is the very invitation we have every day with whatever gifts we bring to it.  We are undoubtedly imperfect creatures. But at our best we come from a centered and grounded space that allows us to grow within ourselves; to elevate and inspire others; and to take on the difficult task of spokesperson or “prophet” when hard realities confront us. May we see within this calling, the opportunity that is offered us to become the humans we are created to be, the ones who are “just walking each other home.”

 May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.

          Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: For “spirit-bearers” everywhere, lift your spirits with this refreshing drink:  Mix 2 c. fresh berries (such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or blueberries, or a mixture, plus more for garnish); ½ c. orange juice; 2 T. lime juice (plus lime slices for garnish); 2 T. honey; 3 c. soda water (or lemon-lime seltzer; add ice cubes.  Enjoy. 😊

When Life is “the Pits”

“Life is the pits.”  Likely you have felt that way at some time. You especially may be experiencing such emotion during this covid 19 pandemic.    Perhaps you’ve tried all your usual methods to cope with a “pit,” and even resorted to those least effective ones like food or shopping, smoking or drinking too much.  If you have strayed from spiritual practices or never developed them, perhaps you have turned to them.  In the best case, you have found what helps you. But there are times when everything seems to fail us and life is, indeed “the pits.”

Frederick Buechner, ordained Presbyterian minister, author and speaker, tells of a time when he was at a low point.  Driving down the highway, a car passed him with a license plate that said “TRUST.” That simple license plate seemed a powerful message to him in that moment and helped him to regain his emotional footing.  He later learned the car belonged to a bank trust officer.  When the trust officer learned of the story, he personally delivered the license plate to Buechner, who placed it on his office shelf as a frequent reminder to ground himself in his faith, trusting that he would be sustained whatever the outcome.

Several years ago I published a book, Dream In Progress.  In it I make reference to Biblical stories of Joseph, placed in a pit and left for dead by his jealous brothers; Daniel put in the pit of a lions’ den; Jonah in the pit of a whale.  We can think of others through the years:  Victor Frankl, psychiatrist and author, who survived four concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau, for example, or John McCain, shot down over Vietnam during that war and held as a P.O.W. for five and a half years.  Our own pits may not be as dramatic but are every bit as real to us as we live through them. 

May we be reminded, as Buechner was, that even in the midst of difficulty we are being sustained.  In the current milieu where trust in the most basic elements– our government, science, journalism— has been nearly demolished, we have the challenge/opportunity to dig deep within for what grounds us; to foster trust, to nurture hope; to be, as Mahatma Ghandi said, the change we wish to see in the world. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.

            Shalom, Kate

P.S. When times are rough, try a Hope’s Café Smoothie:  Blend 1 c. vanilla yogurt; 1 c. frozen strawberries; 1 frozen banana; ¼ c. juice.  Enjoy 😊