"I heard a gentle whisper with each breath: Peace, be still. Peace, be still. " Michelle Ortega

“I heard a gentle whisper with each breath: Peace, be still. Peace, be still. ” Michelle Ortega





I pull the blankets up under my chin, roll onto my side toward the windows. From the darkness of my bed, I listen to the wind blow over my condo and through the trees. No rain, just wind—leftover power from a southern storm traveling up the East Coast. I imagine limbs waving and tree trunks bending with resistance. I wonder what debris would be left on the ground in the morning and if power lines will be knocked out, but I also know I am safe in my home. I eventually drift into sleep.

Wind always reminds me of Pentecost, and even on a mild day, I stand and watch as trees and branches, leaves, and even my hair are caught up in an invisible current. I think of the disciples and how terrified they must have been, trying to make sense of what happened to their friend, Jesus, who they thought had come to overthrow Roman rule. Jesus had told them the Holy Spirit would come, but I wonder about His PR.

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever––

the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him:

but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

(John 14:16-17)

There is no mention of the rushing winds that filled the house where the disciples gathered or the tongues of fire over their heads (depicted just a few pages later in Acts 2). They must have been terrified! 




All over our planet, wildfires rage – each year more intense, more expansive. High winds fuel the burns, spreading them faster than firefighters can manage at times. Fire needs air to happen – two interdependent energies, a destructive turn in a natural cycle.

On a smaller scale, we have fire and air in our bodies: our breath and our metabolism. The phrase “fired up” can mean several different emotions (such as angry, enthusiastic, or anxious) or it can mean being on the ready, ready for action, fueled. To “fire up,” we first must breathe, which sounds too obvious to point out. Of course, we have breath (if we are living!), but so many of us live in such a perpetual state of stress that we unconsciously hold our breath and create more tension in our bodies. For me, I can feel it as my diaphragm retracts. That deep place, which should be one that feels free to nourish and be nourished, often locks up in response to fear, anxiety, and even shame.

Like you, I’m sure, I’ve had an overload of news with heavy burdens, crises, and suffering. It seems every contact brings more hard news, news with no easy answers. This morning, I rose early, and before I even hit the button on the Keurig, my stomach was churning. I forewent my normal journaling spot at the dining table and moved into the family room which was still dim in the pre-dawn hush. Then I brought a special candle holder from my writing desk, a small mirrored lotus flower, and placed a tea light in its center. There were more tea lights for people I prayed for, but I didn’t light them right away.




I sat comfortably on a block and folded my legs loosely before me, fixed my gaze on the sparkling facets of my lotus and the tiny flame that pierced the dark. I saw the shadows that little light cast around me, and although I couldn’t see myself, I’m sure my face caught a little of the glow. Then I put my hands gently on my lower ribs and closed my eyes. I imagined God in the Garden breathing the breath of life into dust and bones. I imagined God’s breath deep within me, Pneuma, Holy Spirit, Breath of Life.

I reached to light the other votives but sensed that it wasn’t time. Fill me first, so I can serve the others. After a short few minutes, I felt my breath expand into the deep of my core. My body gently rocked forward and upright with each inhalation, then back and curved on exhalation.

 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19:12)

I heard a gentle whisper with each breath: Peace, be still. Peace, be still.

I lit the rest of the tea lights from the first, surrendered my needs and my loved ones’ needs in prayer, then prayed for guidance, for creativity, for strength, healing, and protection. With each breath, a servant’s fire burned within me.

Questions For Reflection

1. Where do you feel an overload of heavy burdens?

2. Set aside some time today to sit quietly and notice the Breath of Life in you and in all of creation.

3. Then surrender your needs and the needs of your loved ones to Him in prayer. 

Michelle Ortega

Michelle Ortega

Michelle is a speech-language pathologist in New Jersey. Her writing has been published online and in print, at Tweetspeak Poetry, Casual (an e-book), Tiferet Journal, Exit 13, Shrew LitMag, Contemporary Haibun Online, Snapdragon: A Journal of Healing, The Platform Review, and abroad in Horizon: The Haiku Anthology. Her chapbook, Don’t Ask Why, with Seven Kitchens Press, was published August, 2020, and her microchapbook, Tissue Memory, with Porkbelly Press  in 2021.

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina

An ancient practice of slowly, contemplatively reading the words of Scripture.

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