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Coming to the Surface

At some point in our afternoon, backyard adventures, I got a splinter in my finger. As I was washing dishes I realized that it was there and asked Sam to take a look at it. He looked and said, “That’s pretty deep, it’s going to have to come to the surface.”

I looked down and thought about that. There is so much that this coming to the surface during this pandemic. We are reminded that of how many people are hanging on by a thread living paycheck to paycheck. We are seeing how many small businesses might close in the next six weeks. We see the lines at food pantries getting longer and longer and can’t help but be confronted by the truth of how many families are living in food insecurity.

While we may have been able to ignore the splinters in our society that are deeply embedded into our very makeup, the pandemic has brought them to the surface. We are not ok. We are deeply splintered. We are deeply divided. We are deeply steeped in inequality.

Now that we have seen the inequalities and splinters that exist, we have a choice to make: Are we going to try to get them out or let it continue to infect us?

The Waiting Bench

In the afternoons, we try to spend as much time outside soaking up the sun and Vitamin D, creating pirate ships, and practicing climbing fences. This time is one of my favorite times of the day because it reminds me of the creativity and spontaneity that children just naturally carry with them.

At times there are things that both kids want to do at the same time, especially the spiderweb swing. Enter the waiting bench. Really it’s just the picnic table bench but renamed for the purpose of keeping one child a safe distance from the swing until it’s their turn. If we get to a point where they both want to swing, I’ll remind them that they have to take turns and then send one to the waiting bench and one to the swing. After a few swings, they switch. Watching them wait and then run and laugh as they switch makes my heart smile.

I have to admit, I am not all that great at waiting on the waiting bench. There are so many parts of life right now that are filled with waiting. Waiting for the grocery pick up. Waiting for test results. Waiting for communication from schools to see if things are open or if you are in quarantine. Waiting to see if you show symptoms. Waiting for hope. Waiting for change.

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.

May this waiting strengthen our faith and our hope for the coming Christ Child.

I Saw the Light

In January 1947, Hank Williams was riding in the car with his Mama coming back to Montgomery after a show. He was sleeping in the backseat of the car, when she woke him and told him, “I saw the light,” telling him that they were almost home.

This is one of the songs that sometimes get stuck in my head. I am not sure where I first heard it, but I know it was in church and in the summertime with guitars and banjos. Maybe it was at a reunion. Maybe it was at a church picnic.

Wherever it was, we were all invited to sing the chorus together:

I saw the light, I saw the light
No more darkness, no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light

This is the part in particular that gets stuck in my head. I find myself humming and even tapping my foot sometimes. One of the reasons it is getting stuck in my head more often right now is because there’s so much darkness. We are getting closer and closer to the long, dark days. We are surrounded by the darkness of uncertainty. We are inundated with the darkness of the death of over a million people worldwide from COVID-19.

Sometimes, I just need the reminder that I saw the light. I have witnessed and seen the way the light of the world has transformed people and continues to whisper to us.

I saw the light, I saw the light
No more darkness, no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light

On Not Being Prepared

I wasn’t prepared for the chilliness in this air this morning as I walked out the door to run. Yesterday’s run was humid and hot and I expected this morning to be the same. I knew if I didn’t just start running, I might convince myself to retreat back into the warmth.

Oh, I have certainly not been prepared before. Just last week, I found out that I had never actually purchased on our of the books for a class I am taking. The realization came the day an assignment was due. Many times as a classroom teacher, I would look at my twenty-five students only to realize I didn’t prepare for their questions or have the right materials. Even as a pastor, I have walked into Sunday morning worship and suddenly realized the person who was supposed to lead the children’s sermon was absent and have to put together a children’s sermon together. This modifying and adapting was always fun for me, like a jigsaw puzzle where pieces just needed to be put together.

But this year,  I wasn’t prepared for this. has taken on a whole new meaning. I didn’t see a global pandemic coming and I had no frame of reference for understanding how deeply this would impact us all. I didn’t understand how long we would be in quarantine and I certainly didn’t understand how quickly the way we experienced so much of our lives could change. I wasn’t prepared to be a homeschool teacher or a virtual preacher.

As a person who loves a good plan, this year has taught me about my strengths and weaknesses. It has brought me to my knees as I have realized over and over again that we are ash and to ash, we shall return. It has brought me to shouting hooray as I watch the wonder and curiosity as our children discover the world and take all the newness in stride.

I wasn’t prepared for any of this.

Optics and Opportunity

While watching the debate, I was overwhelmed with the optics of three old white men debating the future of our country. For years, I have been the voice in worship planning that asks the question, “But does it look like we welcome and affirm women?” when the platform or worship participants are only males. Nothing about tonight’s debate looks like we value voices of females, voices of Black people, voices of Latinos, voices of LGTBQIA+.

“But the vice-presidential debate and the post-debate analysis will be different!” Yes, it will be, but there is still tonight and tonight it feels heavy to watch and listen to voices who have always been watched and listened to.

The New York Times reported this week that the pandemic will push working women, particularly working moms, 10 years back in the workplace:

Before the pandemic, many American mothers were effectively forced to stop working for some period of time because they could not afford paid child care. And research shows that the longer a woman is out of the work force, the more severe the long-term effects on her earnings will be.

This reporting comes after the reporting in May that women were disproportionally feeling the financial impact of the pandemic:

“Last month’s shattering job losses make clear that women are in the bullseye of this pandemic,” Emily Martin, VP for education and workplace justice at NWLC, said in a statement. “In leisure, hospitality, education, health care and retail — the sectors that are getting hit the hardest — women are the ones who are falling victim to the first massive waves of this economic crisis.”

I have talked to so many working moms who are getting up before the sunrise hoping to get some work done while juggling childcare options for kids who are quarantined, waiting to be tested, were possibly exposed, and whose childcare option simply disappeared with little to no warning. They spend their days caring for their children while desperately trying to keep the foot in the door at work in naptimes or rest times or after the children go to sleep only to do the whole thing over the next day. They are exhausted.

And then tonight, their voices are not heard and not represented.

Optics matter. Optics signal opportunities. And it’s clear tonight who has the opportunity and who doesn’t.

Mary Poppins and Shifting Winds

There’s something in the air now that the seasons have changed. It is a cooler air and the wind is moving the air more quickly, but there’s something else that’s there. Something that hasn’t been a part of Fall before.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been in a group or in a restaurant and suddenly the air just shifts?

That’s the kind of feeling the last two mornings have had. It reminds me of the Mary Poppins when she flies in on the air and whisks away all of the other candidates for the nanny position. Something is coming. The winds are shifting.

You may think I mean that we are coming to the end of this “new normal” or that I mean the coming election season, but it’s deeper than that more soulful than that. This is something that is shifting within people pulling them towards meaningful and intentional living. It’s almost as if we are tired of the game of charades we usually play. Tired of not being real. We just don’t have the energy for manifesting those personas with everything else we are trying to balance.

Maybe it’s settling into who we are remembering that no of us are guaranteed tomorrow? Maybe it’s the collective grief of losing over 200,000 neighbors? Maybe it’s the promise that things are changing?

Something’s in the air.

 

200,000 deaths

This weekend, we reached another terrible threshold. The death toll in the United States has passed 200,000 people who have died from COVID-19. 200,000 families torn apart. 200,000 patients whom healthcare officials have tried to help.

If you didn’t know that we had reached this monumental number, it’s because there is so much to distract us. There is still school and work and college football to keep us occupied. Already you can see the seasonal displays in stores and on social media feeds. Everything that is trying to make us think that life is semi-normal.

But it’s not normal for 200,000 to die in six months in our country. It’s not normal to not talk about that. It’s not normal for us all to feel that collective grief and not have a place to talk about that weight and why doing simple things seems so difficult.

200,000 is a number difficult to comprehend.

Two hundred thousand deaths is akin to losing the entire population of Salt Lake City or Montgomery, Ala. — a devastation.

We’ve lost the equivalent of whole cities. We’ve lost entire families to COVID-19. Whether we actively think about the deaths or not, we can feel it. We can feel the suffering of people deep within us. We may try to distract ourselves and our minds. We may try to numb ourselves from this reality, but deep within us, we know that there are other humans suffering.

The question is how will this knowing change us?

On Loving Our Neighbor

This past week the lectionary came from Romans and it talked about loving our neighbor, a concept that we most often associate with the sayings of Jesus recorded in the gospel. What struck me about this instruction in Romans is that it comes after the reminder in Romans 12:1-2 to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices” and to “renewing of our minds” so that we “do not conform any longer to the patterns of the world.”

Following this passage, in Romans 13 is the reminder that we are all uniquely gifted and beloved. Each of us having something important to offer the body of Christ. The mention of the body of Christ here in Romans might sound like 1 Corinthians 12 and it is similar. Here the indication is that we can’t recognize our belovedness or the unique gifts and talents we have that bring important and good things to the body of Christ.

And then and only then can we love our neighbor. Perhaps the amount of foundational and soul work that has to be done before we can get to the mindset and wholeness is what is really preventing us from loving each other deeply. We can’t love our neighbor because we haven’t renewed our minds and we are beliving the cultural language that creates us vs. them. We can’t love our neighbor because of the cultural influences of consumerism that wants us to believe that we are not enough or that we are flawed in some way that a product or service can cure.

We can’t love our neighbor because there is so much soul work to do before we can get there. There is more to the division and divisiveness that permeates our American society. There are deep soul questions, “Will my life matter?” “Am I worthy?” “Am I good?” “Am I enough?”

May God grant us the ears to hear below the surface of noise. May God grant us the heart to have compassion for those who are seeking answers to deep and important questions.

“Mama, can we sit for awhile?”

This morning our walk was different. The air was cool and the wind was gusty sending leaves changing colors whirling to the ground. This is a season of change. The inbetween-ness of summer and fall. The new routines and new schedules. The new unexpectedness of whether the morning will feel like hot and humid summer or just a little chilly.

The light is different too. It’s not the morning light of summer that promises sunburns and sweat beading down your back. It’s softer, warmer, and more welcoming. Easing into the day rather than starting the day bright and brilliant.

As we were walking on our Saturday path that leads us to a trail, the four-year-old looked at me and asked, “Mama,  can we sit on that bench awhile?” I smiled. Maybe he too was noticing how things were changing. Maybe he too wanted to bask a little longer.

“Let’s do it!”

We watched the leaves whirling and twirling and laughed as hair got blown in our eyes and then back out just as quickly. We talked about the new books we had found at the Little Free Libraries along our paths. We talked about how we might have to get some of our long-sleeved clothes out. We waved at walkers and laughed at dogs chasing squirrels.

There was nothing particularly significant about our conversation except that there was time for our conversation. There was time to sit on the bench and notice and wonder. There was time to be together.

This gift of time is changing us, inviting us to slower pace, beckoning us to reconnect to each other and the world around us.

On Grounding

In the midst of all the changes we are experiencing and the way our sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive, it can be very easy to disconnect from our bodies and our souls especially. When we are constantly reacting to decisions and news because we can’t think ahead, then we move into an automatic kind of motion. Our energy becomes chaotic.

Even though there is so much uncertainty, there are ways that we can ground ourselves in our bodies and in the right now. In fact, grounding ourselves is one of the ways that we can stop our sympathetic system from firing incessantly.

Grounding is finding yourself within your body and soul. It is finding your center and holding your center. When we ground ourselves, we let go of wanting to control the things around us. Grounding also ignites our immune system and increases blood flow, something we all need right now. Grounding is reconnecting to the world around you most of the time by touch the earth with bare feet, removing any barrier between your feet and the earth.

We are disconnected from ourselves and we are disconnected from the earth.

Reconnecting ourselves to the earth reconnects us to ourselves. Reconnecting to ourselves reconnects us to each other. This is a reminder we desperately need right now.