Reflections

  • "for pandemic panic"

    Breathe. And feel

    the Spirit filling your whole body. 


    Breathe. And give thanks; 

    it is a wild gift every single time. 


    Breathe. And acknowledge

    the grief of your plans changing,

    the fear of uncertain things

    looming too large to bear alone.


    Breathe. And consider

    how well Christ knows,

    how fiercely God cares.


    Breathe. And lift up

    your neighbor more vulnerable still.


    Breathe. And believe

    we are in this together and

    the next right thing is enough,

    but first remember to

    Breathe.


    Meta Herrick Carlson


  • "dO NOT BE DISMAYED"


    Do not be dismayed

    by the brokenness of the world.

    All things break.

    And all things

    can be mended.

    Not with time, 

    as they say, 

    but with intention.

    So go. Love

    intentionally, 

    extravagantly, 

    unconditionally.

    The broken

    world waits

    in darkness

    for the light that is you.


    —L.R. Knost



  • "Constant Hope"


    “On you I depend from birth;

    from my mother’s womb you are my strength;

    constant has been my hope in you.”

    —Psalm 71:6


    Hope resides at the core of who we are. We have the ability to retain peace of mind and heart no matter how much think gloom descends on our path of life. Our external world might be inundated with distress, but deep within us there abides a trust that God will see to our well-being in spite of evidence to the contrary. Psalm 71 declares that this vital quality has been rooted in us ever since we experienced the formative months in our mother’s womb. How encouraging our life would be if we believed in this reality as we awaken to each new day . . .


    We are meant to be hope-filled people. Yet the question looms large before us: Is it possible to have persistent hope when we live in a society where divisiveness and hostility doggedly work against this likelihood? Is it actually conceivable that we can foster an enduring hope, one that nurtures and sustains an unshakable peace no matter what our troubles might be?


    Maintaining an abiding confidence is possible, but the ability to preserve it does not come effortlessly . . . We will be asked repeatedly to place our hope in our “rock of refuge” (Psalm 71:3).


    We can be people of resiliency if we focus steadily on what enables our confidence to thrive: a relationship with the Holy One who dwells within us. This perpetual Love is boundless and abundant. In this sacred realm we find the grace and encouragement for hope to flourish. When we open ourselves to the resources of this Abiding Presence . . . our hope grows in depth and consistency.


    —excerpt from the Introduction to Constant Hope: Reflections and Meditations to Strengthen the Spirit by Joyce Rupp (Twenty-Third Publications)


  • "LISTEN TO YOUR LIFE"

    Listen to your life. 

    See it for the fathomless mystery it is. 

    In the boredom and the pain of it

    no less than the excitement and gladness: 

    touch, taste, smell your way to the holy.and hidden heart of it

    because in the last analysis all moments and key moments

    life itself is grace.


    Frederick Buechner, Now and Then



  • inspiring quotes about helping others

    "Everyone can be great because everyone can serve. You don't have to have a college education to serve. You don't even have to make your subjects and verbs agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace."— Dr. Martin Luther king, Jr.


    "Service is a sign of our active connection to Life."— Kabir Helminski, The Knowing Heart


    "When we serve others, we gain more than hope. We gain energy.” — Margaret J. Wheatley, Turning to One Another


    "Small service is true service."— William Wordsworth, in Full Esteem Ahead by Diana Loomans and Julia Loomans


    "Service was as much a part of my upbringing as eating breakfast and going to school. It isn't something that you do in your spare time. It was clear that it was the very purpose of life. In that context, you're not obligated to win. You're obligated to keep trying, to keep doing the best you can every day." — Marian Wright Edelman in Open Mind by Diane Mariechild


    "There is a ripple effect in helping another." Kathleen A. Brehony, Ordinary Grace


    "Service has a life of its own. A single act of kindness may have a long trajectory and touch those we will never meet or see. Something that we causally offer may move through a web of connection far beyond ourselves to have effects that we may have never imagined. And so each of us may have left far more behind us than we may ever know."— Rachel Naomi Remen, My Grandfather's Blessing


    "Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of the world."— Joanna Macy in Frederic Brussat's Twitter Collection


    "Take a few moments to contemplate the question 'What gifts do I bring to share with my Earth family?' Go within and take an emotional scan or inventory of all the qualities that make you who you are. Be sensitive to the feelings of joy and passion that will accompany any authentic gift you have come to share. Today, commit to seeking new ways to open up the gift you are by sharing it with others."

    - Dennis Merritt Jones, The Art of Being

  • practical strategies for living out peace

    • Sit on your front porch or patio rather than your backyard. It will be incredible how invited into the life of your neighborhood by being visible and accessible to your neighbors and those walking your streets.
    • Identify the "other" in your community. It's an incredible time that we live in that we do not have to travel to other countries to experience other cultures. When our restrictions of travel and gathering have lifted, how might you engage with others in your community. It may be as simple as eating a meal together or trying a restaurant that is not your tradition.
    • Learn another language! Choose one that is common in your neighborhood.
  • 10 WAYS TO CREATE JOY DURING COVID-19


    1. Nature. With all its changing beauty, nature tops the list for many as prime source of joy. Just step outside,  look at the buds, listen to the birds, look for nests. Drive to one of the forest preserves now opening up. Touch a few trees, look up at sky, smile at the sun. It’s an amazing world out there.


    2. Music. What about taking part in an online singalong? Or singing aloud with one of the classic hymns that Kristin is recording each week? Or, if you’re really lucky, open a window so you can hear a neighbor practicing. (And there’s always singing in the shower!)


    3. Writing and Drawing. This might be a great time to bring out a notebook for journaling. Or a notepad for doodling. If you’re thinking, “Oh, I can’t do that,” check out Julia Cameron’s newest book, It's Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond, or her original classic, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.


    4. Pets. Our cats and dogs (or birds or ferrets or whomever you live with) are like an extra treat right now. Give them some long doses of love and enjoy their comforting presence.


    5. Gardening. If there’s any good thing about the timing of this virus and our stay-at-home lifestyle, it’s that spring is blooming. In a world where it feels as if we have little control, we can still till a little soil, plant a few seeds, or add some flowers to the patio. As one woman wrote, “When I have my hands in the dirt, my mind goes quiet and slows down into an almost meditative state.”


    6. Porch Presents. There’s probably no quicker way to bring on a smile than leaving a surprise gift on someone’s porch. Homemade cookies, a bottle of wine, a few face masks, some flowers—even some extra disinfectant wipes—are all possibilities. You might be surprised at how something simple brings such joy.


    7. Kids. Yes, we’ve heard (or know first-hand) how stressful it is to have kids in the house 24/7. But what about the surprise moments? When one of them does something nice you didn’t expect? Or snuggles up to you just because they want to be close? Or ends up laughing when you made them play a game with the family? Now that’s joy.


    8. Cooking. Who knew that being forced into cooking more (no going out to restaurants for weeks!) could actually inspire “the joy of cooking”? People are getting creative, making everything from sourdough bread to homemade tortillas. What are you cooking up at your house?


    9. Dancing. Being forced to work at home, with few places to go, no gyms for exercise, and (at least until recently), few warm days to head outside, we're all feeling a little sluggish. Maybe it’s time to get out some dance music and loosen up a bit. Go ahead: It’s okay to act a little silly. You can always laugh if you’re not very good at it. And your body may repay you with some extra energy reserves you didn’t know you had!


    10. Scripture. Did you know that there is a lot of joy in the Bible? There are 15 different Hebrew words and 8 Greek words to describe JOY, both as a noun and as a verb. If you do a search for “joy,” it comes up 155 times in the King James Version. A search for “joy,” “rejoice,” or “joyful” in the English Standard Version comes up with 430! Bottom line: God calls us to joy: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy” (Psalm 67:4); “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice” (Psalm 96:11).


  • great compassion

    Read Isaiah 54:7-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV):


    7 For a brief moment I abandoned you,

        but with great compassion I will gather you.

    8 In overflowing wrath for a moment

        I hid my face from you,

    but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,

        says the LORD, your Redeemer.


    9 This is like the days of Noah to me:

        Just as I swore that the waters of Noah

        would never again go over the earth,

    so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you

        and will not rebuke you.


    Friends, it feels as if the world is coming at us in destructive and pathological ways. From out of the chaos, however, comes this other voice rooted in memory and shapes our future, not in hostility but in compassion. Not in abandonment but in solidarity, not in isolation but in covenant, not in estrangement but in well-being.


    Prayer: In the midst of troubled times, be with us, God of well-being. May faithful remembering lead to compassionate reimagining. Amen.


    - Source: Walter Brueggeman, A Way Other Than Our Own


  • god's work. our hands

    God's work never stops! In the coming week, we're taking a closer look at what "God's work, our hands" looks like during this time of sheltering-in-place. Many of our normal methods of putting our love into action, in the church and community, are closed to us. So it's time to get creative. Here are a few ideas to kickstart your thinking:



    Shake out that Christmas card list or get out the church directory and send a note to someone to let them know you are thinking about them. If you don’t know what to say, write your note as a prayer for that person.

    Give $5 to a local food pantry!


    • Have your kids create some sidewalk art in front of neighbors' homes to let them know they're not alone.
    • Go for a ride and drive by someone's house to wave and call out, "Hi."
    • Set up a Zoom call with friends or relatives to "share" a meal together.
    • Drop off a surprise treat (cleaned and well-wrapped, of course) on a friend's front porch.
    • For more ideas, check out "How to Help Others Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic."



    And one more thing you might not think of as serving, but it definitely is: Wear your face mask when you are out in public! It protects others from any possible germs you may have.



  • "Diversity, essence, and community"

    All of us who live, breathe, and walk upon this amazing, holy Mother Earth are called to understand [three] cosmic principles . . . differentiation or diversity; subjectivity, interiority, or essence; and communion or community and interconnectedness. These [principles] offer vital lessons for the critical times in which we live, where diversity causes conflict, living is often at a superficial level, and individualism runs rampant.


    First, every one of us—every human being, every drop of water, every molecule, every bird, each grain of sand, and each mountain—is distinct or different. Each is a distinct manifestation of Divine Love. The universe thrives upon, and cannot exist without, diversity. The very differences that we shun, avoid, or even destroy are necessary for life to continue in a multitude of magnificent forms. . . .


    The second [principle], interiority or essence, is more easily understood by people of all religious traditions. Every created thing is holy. Every blade of grass, grasshopper, child, and element is holy. Ecological degradation, racism, discrimination, hate, and disinterest in working for justice and love each speak to the lack of honoring the essence of that which stands before me. . . .


    The third [principle], communion or community, is intimately linked to differentiation/diversity and interiority/essence. A quote attributed to Thich Nhat Hanh states it well: “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.” [1] The [holy] pull of love draws everyone and everything into relationship and communion. . . .


    Perhaps, as Beatrice Bruteau wrote, “If we cannot love our neighbor as ourself, it is because we do not perceive our neighbor as ourself.” [2] If we are unable to see that we are in communion with another, we will not realize that what we do to ourselves, we do to the other and to the earth. Likewise, we do not realize that, ultimately, our lack of understanding turns back toward us in violence, whether that is fear of other races and diversity, or destruction of Earth because we see the natural world as an object rather than a subject with interiority. . . .


    We are called to be larger than who we can imagine being in this moment. The cosmic principles are a new way of understanding, seeing, and acting in a world that seems to be torn apart by a misunderstanding of the beauty of diversity, the holiness of essence, and the evolutionary pull of communion.


    - excerpt by Sr. Joan Brown, from Richard Rohr’s “Daily Meditations,” Friday, June 7, 2019



    [1] Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching shared by Wendy Johnson, “A Floating Sangha Takes Root: Early Days in Plum Village with Thich Nhat Hanh,” Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, vol. 24, no. 3 (Spring 2015). See https://tricycle.org/magazine/floating-sangha-takes-root/.

    [2] Beatrice Bruteau, The Holy Thursday Revolution (Orbis: 2005), 6.


    Joan Brown, “Embracing Diversity through the Cosmic Principles,” “Unity and Diversity,” Oneing, vol. 6, no. 2 (CAC Publishing: 2018), 18-22.



  • WHOLENESS WHEEL


    During this time of global pandemic and a deluge of difficult changes, things can feel really out of balance.  One tool that may be helpful is the "Wholeness Wheel," created by The Inter-Lutheran Coordinating Committee on Ministerial Health and Wellness.


    The core belief is reflected at the center of the wheel: Each of us is a new creation in Christ. The six spokes of the wheel encompass six key aspects of our spiritual well-being: 


    • Social Well-being
    • Emotional Well-being
    • Physical Well-being
    • Financial Well-being
    • Vocational Well-being
    • Intellectual Well-being


    The Wholeness Wheel can help you assess your overall balance. Take a look at each section of the wheel and consider how you're doing in each area. What areas are strong? What areas feel weak? What would you like to strengthen? 


  • 10 BIBLE verses about fear

    1. “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”—Isaiah 41:1

    2. “Do not worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:6-7

    3. “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.”—Psalm 56:3

    4. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”—2 Timothy 1:7

    5. “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
      —Deuteronomy 31:6

    6. “I prayed to the Lord and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.”—Psalm 34:4

    7. “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God for he cares for you.”—1 Peter 5:6-7

    8. “This is my command-be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”—Joshua 1:9

    9. “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for the fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”—1 John 4:18

    10. “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”—Romans 15:13
    Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
  • god's presence has not been cancellED

    So much has been and will continue to be, for some time, cancelled: sports events, concerts, plays, worship services, rallies, travel, meetings, classes, family gatherings, and so much more. 


    Love has not been cancelled. 

    Mercy has not been cancelled. 

    Prayer has not been cancelled. 

    Attentiveness has not been cancelled. 

    Goodness has not been cancelled. 

    Thanksgiving has not been cancelled. 

    Loving relationships have not been cancelled. 

    Kindness has not been cancelled. 

    Music has not been cancelled. 

    Conversations have not been cancelled. 

    Learning has not been cancelled. 

    Poetry and storytelling has not been cancelled. 

    Courage has not been cancelled. 

    Meditation and contemplation have not been cancelled. 

    Painting and dancing has not been cancelled. 

    Families have not been cancelled. 

    Community and solidarity has not been cancelled. 

    Faith has not been cancelled. 

    Hope has not been cancelled. 

    And … God’s presence with us, has not been cancelled.


    - composer and author David Haas, Director at the Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry, Minnesota