Hello sisters & brothers,
My hope is that you are caring for yourselves and for one another in these pandemic days. I sit to write these few lines, aware how this year of vigilance has been hard on everyone. Most all of us have someone in our circles of influence who have suffered symptoms of the Covid virus. And even living symptom-free comes with its own stresses of shrunken social orbits, cancelled plans, non-functioning neighborhoods, and slippery futures.
Remaining hopeful and spiritually grounded these days is essential, for our own well being but also to be able to lift & support others around us. Some of you have quipped how this season is the sabbatical you never asked for, and how some days you simply feel “like a mess”. All the more reason to build spiritual practices, alone and with others, into each day. It is the Jesus way to radically seek God and serve neighbor, especially in times like these. This rubs us up against the great lessons of Sabbath-keeping, not merely observing one day a week, but in each day, orienting our behavior toward the God who gives life. So, how is it going for you, creating sacred space (ie. keeping Sabbath) in the course of these pandemic days, by how you live and move and have your being? The writer Kathleen Norris says it this way –
It is a quotidian mystery that dailiness can lead to such despair and yet also be at the core of our salvation … We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing and even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are…. We must look for blessings to come from unlikely, everyday places.
I think that starting where we are means to live with intention, even when not in the mood to do so. Practicing good spiritual hygiene has a way of bringing the rest of ourselves along. I have a few spiritual practices I know I must do to begin each day, such as abstaining from technology, sitting quietly with a candle lit, reading sacred writings, and journaling about the needs I see around me. February 17th begins the Christian season of Lent – 40 days of letting-go and taking-on as preparation for Easter. The number 40 is important for it puts us in solidarity with Jesus who leaned deeply into his own spiritual practices during his time of great testing. For us, this pandemic is testing the entire human family – testing our own endurance and stamina; testing our sense of fairness in seeing that vulnerable populations receive the vaccine; testing the will of government and other agencies to be adapt the ways they serve communities.
So, I challenge us all to try on some new spiritual practices that help us live into a meaningful Lent, and even beyond. Here are a few suggestions –
- Lament and express your grief to God for what is lost for now, then let it go;
- Read authors who stand to benefit you and others (Recommended by our Friday Book Group” “Liturgy of the Ordinary” by Tish Warren)
- Embody self-care by exercising, eating and drinking in moderation, pursuing experiences of beauty – all the while extending the fruit of your self-care to someone else who needs it;
- Extend generosity of time/talent/treasure to a situation of need you know about, and do it anonymously;
- Make regular contact, and gestures of encouragement, to someone who is suffering more (or in ways different) than you.
I’m sure you have ideas of your own. I welcome your responses to this blog by sharing other spiritual practices that ground you, and might challenge the rest of us to join you.
No one is more eager than me to see this pandemic loosen its grip on humanity, and for all communities, beginning with the most vulnerable, to receive the vaccine and thrive.
But for now, can we imagine this window of pandemic time as space to be more deeply human, deeply aware of our neighbor, and deeply drawn to God who breathes life into all circumstances.
I leave you with a 3-minute video, a “Visual Liturgy” from the good people at The Work Of The People. I consider this a beautiful spiritual practice, based on Psalm 62, a portion of which I’ve listed here as well. Perhaps it will speak deeply to you as it does me. CLICK HERE to watch the video now.
For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
Those of low estate are but a breath,
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
Put no confidence in extortion,
and set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
Paying attention in a pandemic,
PS – I am excited for this new Lent class offering, as spiritual practice to help our divided world wounded by racism. Our guest leader, Lucy Waechter Webb, I know & have great respect for. I hope you’ll join me and others for the Sunday afternoons of Lent, to learn and grow as Christ-followers against racism. Read below to know more, then REGISTER HERE:
Anti-racism Practice Circle with Lucy Waechter Webb
Sunday afternoons 5pm | February 21 – March 28, 2021
Lent calls us to turn. Turn toward God, and turn away from that which destroys us. This small group opportunity will support you to take the next step in your commitment to anti-racism practice. It will guide you to move from your head and into your body, because even when our brains understand that systemic racism exists, we must practice embodying active resistance to it. The course will weave Christian texts and personal stories with plenty of time for reflection and shared practice. This course is for anyone who affirms that racism is real and is committed to actively resisting it. No prior training required.
Donna Olendorf says
Encouraged by your blog, I recommit to my morning prayers. There are so many possibilities for Lenten devotions and I’ve got at least two weeks to decide. Which road will I take? Action? Contemplation? Both?
Linda Wolgast says
Thank so much for the inspiring message. Jim and I have been enjoying our favorite hymn CDs. We joyfully sing along. It’s a good thing God wants us to sing with our hearts and voices because my heart sounds so much better!
In terms of spiritual practice and ritual- I’ve started a “one line a day” journal this year to give my children one day, writing down memories and sweet things they say. When I’ve written my line for the day, I take a moment to sit in gratitude- for their health, their happiness, the joy they bring to my life, and for the fact that God entrusted these little girls to me. It’s a simple practice, but after an exhausting day of parenting, running the household, working, and trying to care for myself, it grounds me, reminds me of God’s love for me and my family, and keeps me in gratitude.
Beverly McCaw says
My day starts and ends with devotional readings. Sometimes in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep there is more reading. There are days during this pandemic that are just sad no matter what I do. These days are just accepted and then they pass. The zoom classes have been a God send. Without them I would really not be doing well. There has also been blessings: spending time doing puzzles with my husband, Zoom classes, attending church on line, and more quiet times. I am grateful for the blessings.
Thank you for the ideas included here.