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Thin Moments
by Estee in

I was listening to a podcast today by a woman named Cathleen Falsani. In it, she talks about her understanding of grace which she describes as God reaching God's hand into the world (she takes that from Rob Bell). She uses the Celtic idea of "Thin Moments" to flesh out her understanding.

She says:
Have you ever had a moment that was so spiritual, so sacred, that you could actually feel God? And I mean really feel God. A feeling that is undeniably life-affirming, breath-stopping, mind-tingling, goosebumb-motivating, heart-melting, soul-quenching, and wonderful. And by wonderful I mean truly full of the wonder, the awe, the mystery, the otherness of God. Celts talk about two worlds that exist in one place - thin places. This world, the here, and the other world, the more, the one that's just on the other side we mostly can't see now because now see through a mirror dimly. Celts believe a veil exists between the two worlds. The veil is like a thick wool army blanket. But every once in a while the blanket gets worn down so you can see through it, like gossamer. Those are thin moments. Grace moments. When for just a second you glimpse something that's greater than the present moment, something that connects you to everyone else.

I had a thin moment this past Sunday. We were baptizing three sweet siblings at the 11:00 service. Baptizing kids is always like herding cats in front of an audience -- there is always comedy. We baptized the first sister and brother, and then David took the littlest sister in his arms. She was only about a year old and had watched her sister and brother go before her. Although they were wiggly, she was very calm and took everything in with big blue eyes. David baptized her and then we all laid our hands on her to say a prayer.

As we prayed, that sweet baby girl watched me with an earnest intensity that I cannot describe with words. I could not close my eyes to pray but was locked in the moment with her. As David prayed that the Holy Spirit would move in her so she would grow in a life of faith, she and I starred at each other and I felt a deep sense of grace and peace. It was truly a thin moment like none I've ever experienced.

Have you ever experienced a thin moment? A moment that you tangibly felt connected to something greater than yourself -- tangibly connected to the source of life?

It isn't something that has happened often for me, but one other time that I experience thin moments is during Ash Wednesday services. As a minister, I feel very fortunate to participate in the sacramental moments of life with other people. It is a privilege that I deeply cherish.

On Ash Wednesday, worshippers come forward for the "imposition of ashes." The ministers dip our fingers in a bowl of ashes and smear them on people's foreheads as we say "remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." To look into the eyes of friends and say these words is humbling and raw even. And especially putting ashes on the smallest foreheads -- to look into children's eyes and say these words -- takes me to a thin place. It is an act that reminds me of my shared humanity and the bittersweet grittiness of life and the God who created us for this beautiful, fleeting existence.


Jo said...

What a powerful story that is of the baptism. Thanks for sharing such a personal, private moment with us.

I had many thin moments several years ago when our daughter was in a hospital in Atlanta. There were also some "thick" moments in that experince, but I'll share a thin one.

Our AHUMC Sunday School class had a prayer meeting for her. I'm sure Jason has told you about our class. We are all somewhat intellectual and scholarly in our approach to religion so when they called us in Atlanta and said they were having a prayer service, I was overwhelmed. Jack and I went to the hospital chapel while they were all praying in Fort Worth. We were connected in a powerful, healing way. The next day a new nurse was on duty. She didn't know us or Amy's story. She hadn't overheard any phone calls or anything to let her know we were church goers. The first time she walked out of Amy's room she looked at us and said, "That young lady has a tremendous number of people praying for her. She'll be okay."

That was just one of many powerful stories from that experience. I try not to burden people with them too often. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share it.

Estee said...

Wow Jo! Thank you so much for sharing! That is a very powerful story -- it is amazing how things sometimes happen on a higher plane than we are aware of. Makes me feel so small and yet so interconnected into a bigger reality than I can understand. I really appreciate hearing this!

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