Today was a hard day in northern Colorado. Social media is blowing up with photos we’ve taken from our yards and windows—a plume of smoke, obviously coming from the foothills just west of Fort Collins and Loveland. As I type, thousands of our friends, co-workers and church family are evacuating dozens of communities and subdivisions in Larimer County.
As our hearts quiet down and evening falls, perhaps you would find time for an evening meditation based on our love for God, our neighbors, the earth and all creatures great and small.
I know our hearts are afraid for the people we love, the forests we cherish and the animals who make their home in our mountains. And because our lives depend on the shelter of home, we hurt alongside our human neighbors who have evacuated homes, and we pray with hope for the winds to calm down and the rain and snow to come NOW.
The meditation that follows, focuses on the Four Elements of creation: Wind, Fire, Water and Earth. It’s meant to get you bodily involved in your prayers. I plan to do this every evening through this weekend. If you wonder how to pray in the midst of natural disaster, please try this with me.
Honoring the Four Elements
Gather up a few items to symbolize of each of the elements. For example: for wind I’m using a fallen leaf, for fire a candle, for water a bowl with water, and for earth a stone.
Begin by facing east, the place of the rising sun, of morning, of new beginnings. Become conscious of the element of wind: breathe in its gifts of air. Remember that the word for breath and spirit is the same in Hebrew—ruach. Imagine the breath of God breathing into you at the very moment of your creation. Welcome God’s life-giving breath into your life.
See the dawn of creation, the birds and the winged creatures flying across the morning sky. Sing with them, recognizing that air sustains our voices.
With the psalmist say: You ride on the wings of the wind. (Psalm 104)
With the compassion of Christ pray: Merciful God, these days the wind is fueling the forest fires that threaten our neighbors’ homes, land, lives and pets. Shelter them from harm; calm the turbulence in the atmosphere that is fueling these fires and calm the anxiety in the hearts of your children.
Turn toward the south, the place of the midday sun, the warmth and fullness of the day, and the season of summer joy.
Become conscious of the element of fire. Feel the heat in your own body, the energizing and expanding fire that sustains your life. Imagine the fiery tongues of the Spirit resting on the disciples at Pentecost, and welcome God’s fire and passion into your life this day.
Notice in your body where you feel the gift of fire, play, warmth, and creativity burning alive. Reflect on the chemical reactions within your own cells and organs that ignite and fuel your energy, life-force, your purpose and possibility.
Become conscious of the ash falling and smoke plume rising; and allow your heart to feel the dread of fire that is consuming precious life in the Roosevelt National Forest.
With the psalmist say: The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Psalm 103)
With the compassion of Christ pray: Merciful God, this ash is what remains from the pine and grass and bear and coyote and deer and mouse that could not escape. Shelter your creatures and children from harm. Send the fire away full, and command it to rest. Help us to hope in the power of new life.
Turn toward the west, the place of the setting sun, of endings and transitions, and of the season of autumn.
Become conscious of the element of water. Find your pulse and feel the power of water pumping through your body, sustaining you. Imagine the power of God present in the great sea and in the cleansing and renewal of baptism.
Bless yourself with water if you have some nearby.
Notice in your body where you feel the gift and flow of water. Feel the gifts of tears, of your emotions. Be mindful of the gifts of rivers and oceans, rain and snow.
With the psalmist say: You are our LORD: Who covers the heavens with clouds, who provides rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow on the mountains. (Psalm 147)
With the compassion of Christ pray: Merciful God, send your rain to our beloved Rocky Mountains. Send a thick blanket of October snow to extinguish the fires and relieve the residents and loved ones and the workers battling the blazes and sheltering the displaced.
Turn toward the north, the direction of grounded truth, wisdom and life direction.
Become conscious of the elements of earth and the way your body is made of earth and will one day return to the earth.
Imagine God as the potter and you as the clay being formed and shaped. See God as the vine and you as one of the branches extending out into the world. Experience your rootedness in the divine.
Notice in your body where you feel the gift of earth. Feel the gifts of the earth, of seeds holding wisdom underground, of roots sinking deep. Rest in your grounding and in your place on the earth.
With the psalmist say: The earth is full of your goodness. (Psalm 33)
With the mind of Christ pray: You LORD are the Way, the Truth and the Life; I trust the care of this earth to the God of my Life. Give me and the this NOCO neighborhood grace and peace for a restful evening.
Reach your arms heavenward and honor the angels, saints, and those who have traveled the path before us. Ask their blessing on the day ahead.
Hold your arms out to your sides and honor the community across this earth of which you are a part.
Remember your family and friends, pray for global issues and concerns, feel your connection to the whole of creation.
Place your hands over your heart or in prayer position and get in touch with the still center within you. Ask for a blessing on your own community and neighborhoods.
Open yourself to the discovery of how the Spirit is moving in your life this day. Amen.
This meditation is adapted from the writings and retreat work of Christine Valters Paintner. If you like it, you’ll love her book: Water, Wind, Earth, and Fire. Ave Maria Press