Journal

Contemplative Life

A Pastoral Word in These Crazy Days

 

Friends, it’s been a dizzying few weeks with current events and the news cycle. I wonder if you too catch yourself feeling emotionally and intellectually seasick?  It’s a lot to keep track of, it’s a lot to feel, it’s a lot to hold.

Here’s just a short and incomplete list of things that have been on my mind that, taken in total, drive me to find solid ground and stay close to sources of hope and focused on Jesus:

  • Seeing history made with the 34 felony convictions of a former US president, and the extreme differences in reaction, and the continued polarization these reactions display and portend.
  • Seeing the terrorist group Hamas lobbing rockets at Tel Aviv while we were in Israel and Palestine recently, and then shortly thereafter seeing the Israeli military bombing a safe zone in Gaza with even more loss of innocent life, and then the announcement of a new proposed peace plan under consideration against the backdrop of profound trauma and longstanding injustices in the Holy Land.
  • Seeing the names of the public schools where our kids used to attend restored to the names of Confederate generals for the first time in American history, and again the extreme differences in reaction, and how this is another signal that the journey to racial justice and reconciliation in America continues to be a steep and uphill climb against great resistance.
  • Seeing the impact of a horrible sexual abuse situation at an Anglican church I served in for long time, and especially seeing the damage on so many people and the huge, devastating ripple effect of sin.
  • Seeing further light shed this past week on systemic sexual abuse and cultural destruction against Native American children for well over a century by the US government through the boarding schools run by the Roman Catholic church.
  • And then just seeing up close the personal challenges and struggles of people I am privileged to meet with pastorally.

It’s a lot to keep track of, it’s a lot to feel, it’s a lot to hold.  Perhaps you are carrying some of these same burdens.  How are you holding up while seeing the things you’re seeing too?  In case it might be helpful to you, here’s a list of some of the things I try to do to stay sane in these crazy days, put into the language of suggestion.

  • You might take some time each day for a bit of silence, to remember that God is near to you, loving you, is aware of you, and aware of all that you’re seeing too.  In those moments you might inhale deeply and slowly, imagining that you are inhaling the love and spirit of God right then.
  • You might step up your habit and discipline of gratitude, pausing to call to mind what you have to be grateful for, and thanking God for it.
  • You might call to mind regularly the person of Jesus, remembering what he was like while on earth, and remembering that because he is alive he is with you now, and that resurrection is always a possibility.  You might call to mind this lovely insight from Pope John Paul II, “We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!” (He said this in the month of November, in 1986)
  • You might choose one area that is causing you heartache or concern and consider taking one concrete action to constructively address it.  Be with God, ask God, “In which of these areas might I do something?”  Having come to clarity on that, then ask God, “What’s one thing I can do as your redemptive agent in this situation?”  Once you have clarity on that, then, with God’s help, do it.
  • When a particular situation is particularly troubling, you might discipline yourself to pray about it before moving on to think about something else.
  • You might make sure to remember to pause and look at nature and creation, in whatever form that is possible for you wherever you live.  Remember that the God who made it is with you, with gratitude.
  • You might consider how you can intentionally stay closer to friends in your life for conversation and mutual support.
  • You might consider how much screen time you’re using, whether or not that’s a good amount, and whether or not some rhythmic ‘technology fasts’ might be helpful.
  • You might call to mind that, no matter how depressing or futile things might seem, as followers of Jesus we are a people who believe in the current reality of and the coming Kingdom of God, and let that faith motivate you to actions that demonstrate that hope.
  • You might remember Psalm 46.1-3:  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”  Amen!  Whatever else is going on, God is bigger.
  • And you might remember the words of Jesus in John 16.33: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  You might remember the words in John 1.5 about Jesus: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

How are you staying sane in these crazy days?  How are you staying connected to Jesus?

On the Journey,

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