Weekly Words of Wisdom 7-29-20

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)

I was rereading this scripture the other day and it caused me to wonder just how do we find rest for our souls?    Since the early days of the pandemic, increasing stress and anxiety have gradually worn some of us away as we experienced extended solitude, isolation, and loneliness. This has been true especially for those who live alone.  Work and social routines have been interrupted, have become virtual or remote, and physical connections limited to what can happen sitting or standing six feet apart.  Masks, hand sanitizers, and disinfecting wipes are the new necessities, at the top of every shopping list.  

How do we experience solitude, isolation and loneliness?  For some it is a ‘me’ time, a time to recharge our batteries, of renewing our inner being.  Not so for some for whom it increases fear and anxiety, a sense of helplessness and struggle.  For all of us it can be a time of grace and challenge.  I think solitude differs from loneliness.  When we are lonely, we become acutely aware of our own separation from others. But solitude can be one of the most precious things in the human spirit.  Trappist monk and theologian Thomas Merton discovered for himself that “when solitude was a problem, I had no solitude. When it ceased to be a problem I found I already possessed it and could have possessed it all along.  In its deep peace we find God.”

Yes some would see solitude as an encounter with the divine, a place within where there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which we can retreat at any time.  We cannot always seek outside ourselves for that which we can only find within and there are some gifts which we can only give to ourselves. Perhaps God has circled a place on a map for us and it is where we are right now. Finding rest for our souls is to recognize that we are where we’re supposed to be and it’s holy ground.

Rev. Lorrie Skinner

Weekly Words of Wisdom 7-22-20

As we continue to live through this Covid-19 pandemic, with its ups and downs, its spurts of early openings and increased infections and deaths, its opening things up and closing things down again, it’s uncertainties about school in the fall and the economic climate and even when we will get back to church, I find myself returning from time to time to a poem I read early on, written by minister and poet Lynn Unger, entitled “Pandemic.” Maybe some of you have seen it. It was written in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, before most of us were asked to stay at home.  Even then, in those first moments, Lynn Unger envisioned a way of responding to the crisis with love, not fear.  The wisdom of this poem goes far beyond the circumstances of the pandemic.  I believe it can speak to us, as well, about some of the other issues we are facing right now, in our nation and our world.

Rev. Sherm Skinner

Pandemic

What if you thought of it

as the Jews consider the Sabbath—

the most sacred of times?

Cease from travel.

Cease from buying and selling.

Give up, just for now,

on trying to make the world

different than it is.

Sing. Pray. Touch only those

to whom you commit your life.

Center down.

And when your body has become still,

reach out with your heart.

Know that we are connected

in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.

(You could hardly deny it now.)

Know that our lives

are in one another’s hands.

(Surely, that has come clear.)

Do not reach out your hands.

Reach out your heart.

Reach out your words.

Reach out all the tendrils

of compassion that move, invisibly,

where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love—

for better or for worse,

in sickness and in health,

so long as we all shall live.

–Lynn Unger 3/11/20

Weekly Words of Wisdom 7-15-20

Earlier this year, the whole world changed. Called out of a world we knew, we landed in time out of ordinary time. Everything was radically different; yet we didn’t even have a name for this universally shared human experience.  Without an explicit, shared tradition of stepping away from ordinary time, many people feel lost. We are people who like to know what is going to happen. We are not fond of uncertainty. As a culture we have no name, no tradition, no practices, tools, or rituals for living outside the familiar comforts of what we know.  We are participating in an evolutionary time unlike any we have known before. 

Spiritual Director Susan Beaumont calls this “liminal time”, a season where something has ended but a new thing has not yet begun. “Liminal seasons are challenging, disorienting, and unsettling.  We strive to move forward with purpose and certainty.  Instead we feel as though we are trudging through mud, moving away from something comfortable and known, toward something that can’t yet be known.”  We are on a threshold, not quite knowing how we got here and very uncertain about where we are going.  Someone has said that thresholds are God’s waiting room.  

Scripture points our way to a timeless understanding that each day, each moment, is an unearned gift from a gracious God, rather than a commodity to be traded or spent for something else.  Always and forever we are to stand in awe before God, from whose mighty acts nothing can be added or taken away.  God is the creator of time.  God sets the rhythm of reality.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.

So we do not lose heart. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure,because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” 

(2 Corinthians 4:8-10; 14-16)

Rev. Lorrie Skinner

It’s easy to give to the Memorial Fund

Gifts made directly to our Music and Scholarship funds are popular ways to honor members, but a gift to our general Memorial Fund finances special projects, e.g. the handicap entrance. While checks can be mailed to the church office, gifts can also be made online. Fill in the $ amount and select “Memorial Fund” from the “to” dropdown. Be sure to add the honoree’s name in the “Comments” box. FYI: 10% percent of each general Memorial Fund gift goes to Scholarship.

Ride The Wave

Dear Saints,

How did it get to be July???? Sigh.

Summer is my favorite time of year. It’s so rife with possibilities for fun and refreshment but this Summer? Not so much.

I’ve been pondering God’s invitation of how we deal with disappointment. We all deal with disappointment differently. Some of us ‘throw a fit’ and/or take it out on a spouse, child, neighbor, co-worker or kick the dog. Some of us just chronically complain to any and all who will listen. Some of us pout or just shut down. Some of us get lost in the internet, video games or binge watch. Some of us have healthier coping mechanisms and throw ourselves into a house project, advanced gardening, learn a new hobby or exercise.

Israel was also invited to learn how to deal with an intense level of disappointment when they were sent into exile in Babylon. They knew why they were sent there and knew they’d be there for an unspecified amount of time, which turned out to be 50-70 years. (The historical and biblical timelines don’t add up.)

We too are in an exile and we too don’t have any clue how long this time of worry, anxiety and disappointment will go on. Only that it will be ‘a while longer’. I think about Israel when they were in Babylon and how they dealt with their exilic displacement which was disappointment at a whole new level. They were displaced in a foreign land with different customs, language, terrain and no temple to worship in. At least we are sheltering in place our own country and homes, we can garden our own land and can eat our indigenous foods (like pizza and ice cream). But we certainly share the experience with Israel of having to learn new customs and life patterns, new habits and even a new language of “life in the time of Corona”.

The book of Jeremiah (especially chapters 29 9and 30) chronicle Israel’s experience with how to deal with intense and sudden change.  We explored Jer 29 many times throughout Lent. It was helpful then. It is helpful now. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. “(29:11) A big part of learning how to deal with disappointment is learn to adapt to things that happen to us and seek the hidden blessings.

A friend of mine who got her doctorate in Gerontology Exercise (at the age of 65) was a research assistant involved in nationwide study of all living Holocaust survivors. She did many of the interviews in person and always asked to see their tattoos; the system used to ‘identify’ each prisoner held captive in a concentration camp.  Her research experience was not at all depressing but actually invigorating and enlivening. I asked her was there a theme to the responses from the survivors who were thriving. She said “yes, they learned how to surf the waves.”

While we may not be able to or want to surf the waves or be in a pool this Summer, one thing’s for sure: God is with us in this. Who do you think made the waves?

Surfing all the waves with you,

Jen

Weekly Words of Wisdom 7-8-20

Prayer of Releasing

Holy, holy, holy God, we place ourselves in your presence; we rest in the promise of your grace.
Our minds and our spirits are cluttered with many thoughts and feelings that threaten to pull our attention away from you.  Let us unclench our fists and release these things: We release all that we have done today–whether for good or for ill.

We release all that we feel like we should have done today, but did not do.

We release all that we need to do tomorrow.

We release our fear. We release our anxiety. We release our impatience. We release our pride.

All of the thoughts, all of the feelings that pull us away from you, O God, we release. 

Fill us now with the joy and the peace of your deep, abiding presence.

We offer all of ourselves to you, our One God, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. Amen