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On Feeling Stuck

Yesterday, our seventeen-month-old walked into the kitchen with a slinky stuck on her foot. She was picking up her foot and putting it back down, again and again, trying to loosen her foot from the entanglement but she couldn’t quite get loose.

I had to laugh (and maybe take a short video before freeing her) because there have been so many times during this time of quarantine that I have felt the exact same way. I feel stuck in uncertainty and fear. I feel like I can’t get a good stride going because it’s so hard to plan ahead when there is new information every single day. I feel like there is something around my ankle that is holding me in place.

And maybe this is exactly where we need to be in order to remember how much we need help. We need to help each other stay safe. We need to help each other because so many people have lost their jobs. We need to help each other by checking on each other because the mental stress and anxiety of completely changing our lives so quickly while also constantly mitigating risks and managing a myriad of responsibilities are exhausting.

We need help to ask the Divine how we can continue to offer hope and life to each other during these strange times. We need to ask the Divine to help us not get stuck in fear and uncertainty. We need to look at what is holding us in place and ask for help finding a way out of that stuckness so that we can create and imagine a new way of being community together.

On Holidays in a Pandemic

It’s supposed to be a holiday weekend. It’s supposed to be a time and an excuse to take it easy, spend time with family, and rest.

Except we are in the midst of a global pandemic.

As we watch cases numbers rise, hear about travel bans, and testimonies that the case numbers are only going to rise, it seems like there is no time to rest. There is no way of avoiding or getting away from where we are. The pandemic is not gone. The cries of protest to examine systemic and historical racism have not stopped.

It’s getting more and more difficult to escape into distraction and avoidance.

Thanks be to God.

Thanks be to God that we can’t hide from our role and our responsibility to take care of each other, to fight for equality, and to work to bring the ecosystem of God here on earth. Thanks be to God that we are being challenged again and again to consider the way our decisions impact others. Thanks be to God that we are having to pause and reflect on the choices we make. Thanks be to God that capitalism is being brought into questions. Thanks be to God that we can’t live the way we used to live.

May God watch over all the essential workers who are bearing the burden of our attempts to hide and distract ourselves.

Turning Into Something New

Over the course of our e-learning, we found a lot of things that we could turn into new things. Used toilet paper rolls turned into binoculars. Use milk cartons turned into bird feeders. Pillows turned into rocks to jump through rivers of lava that were threatening the side of the boat which the ottoman turned into. Putting away laundry turned into trips to Mars, the Moon, and the Sun the laundry basket rocketship transporting us to the different destinations.

Creativity and imagination guided our learning and changed my eyes.

There is so much in the world and in our lives today that is limiting. We feel restricted because the life we use to know was taken from us quickly and swiftly. We feel angry that local leaders are telling us that we must wear masks in order to keep other people safe. We feel overwhelmed that the things we used to do like going out to eat or gather with friends and families now require risk assessment and the constant monitoring of our own bodies and our loved ones to see if those gatherings were dangerous.

In the midst of trying to manage so much, our creativity and imagination have been switched off. Our survival instincts are on full throttle.

It’s not until we reactivate our imaginations that we will be able to reimagine what life can be. It’s not until we access our creativity that we will be able to switch from being defensive about all the changes to seeing those challenges as invitations to experience a completely new way of life.

I remember the times when a letter of acceptance to college, a summer program, and a scholarship to teach overseas came in the mail. My heart started racing and my breath shortened because this was a doorway leading to a completely new experience.

So too is this time and this place a doorway, not a closed door. The question is will we step through to create a new scene, a new chapter, and a new story of what it means to be family and community together?

On Being Together

Over and over again, I have heard people saying that they “needed a change of scenery” or that the way we were doing life during quarantine “wasn’t sustainable.” While this is true to a certain extent, here in South Carolina, the travel and the unwillingness to wear masks is having devastating effects. Our case numbers are rising, more people are dying, and our medical professionals are being taxed to unnecessary extremes. Other states are asking people who have visited South Carolina, to quarantine for 14 days because the rate of increase is so steep.

All because we “needed” to get out and go somewhere.

Molly Spearman announced this week that if we in South Carolina continue not to wear masks as we go about our business, then there is no way that schools will be able to meet in person in the fall. Quarantine helped to flatten the curve, but it did not make COVID disappear. Our inability to wait and change our practices is having a terrible consequences. We are no longer at the point where this is a disease that impacts “the grandmas.” “Since April 4, data from the agency shows that there has been a 413.9% increase in newly reported COVID-19 cases among the 21-30 age group.”

It is much easier to close our eyes and pretend things are the same as they always have been. It is much easier to cling to things that say, “We go to the beach every summer,” and “our policy has always been,” but this unwillingness to change will indeed harm others.

It is harming others.

The question is will we continue to harm others? Will we finally wrestle with the truth that our actions impact others? Will we finally look at ourselves in the mirror and confront our short-sightedness?

 

On Being a Spiritual Director for a Year

 

This week the pictures began to pop up on my social media feeds reminding me that it was just a year ago that I was commissioned as a spiritual director after a two-year certification program at Lutheran Southern Seminary. I was shocked to realize that it had only been a year since our last intensive when I had a baby in tow learning about the desert fathers and mothers for the last time in that kind of setting. Last June, I remember the greetings and the celebrations of being together. I remember everyone being surprised at the baby in my arms because the last time we had gathered I had been carrying her within me. It isn’t surprising then that this baby almost a year to the date would choose this week to finish nursing. Her whole life has been inextricably tied to this journey to become a spiritual director.

As I was looking back at pictures, I found myself also looking back at our coursework. The study of men and women who were looking for a deeper relationship with the Divine, not in search of answers but in search of wholeness. My journey was the same. I wanted to know more about what I didn’t know. I wanted to know more about how to walk intentionally and purposefully with people who were looking for healing and hope. I wanted to know more about this Divine breath that resides within my lungs.

Over the course of reflection, I looked back at the monastic daily prayer schedule. As I looked over the times, I looked at my phone calendar and realized, the times of prayer are awfully close to the times I have fed our baby over the last year. Perhaps there is something beyond coincidence to those parallel schedules. Perhaps much like an infant needs nourishment throughout the day, so too do our souls.

Perhaps there is something to humbling ourselves throughout the day remembering that we are not in control and we do not have the answers that provide our souls the nutrients they need to keep going. And perhaps after we have drawn close to the Divine, we find that the refreshment brings us much needed rest and peace.

May we listen to the cries of hunger from our souls and pause to give our souls nourishment throughout the day.

Walking in the Backwoods

Yesterday, we took some time to go to Croft State Park. This was always a place that provided retreat and respite because it was so close to where I grew up. Also, I knew that this is where my grandfather was during World War II. There was even a desk from the administrative office at our family business growing up.

As we walked the trails by the lake, I found myself imagining what it was like a training camp. The number of soldiers who came to train in the woods or backwoods as some may call it. So much of the landscape and the foliage was familiar to me. It felt like my backyard, but to those soldiers coming from around the country, the heat and humidity and bugs must have been surprising.

I knew where we were going and I knew the significance in my own story of that place.

This is a significant point in our history personally, culturally, and societally. This is an invitation to stop and to decide how you are going to participate. What conversations are you going to have with your family? What conversations are you going to have with your kids?

In Exodus chapter 35, we find the reminder that when Jacob was fleeing for his life, God appeared to him and after God appeared to Jacob, he built an altar to remember that God appeared and that God was with him.

Jacob built an altar there and called it “God of Bethel,” because that was the place where God had appeared to him

How are you going to mark this time in a way that you will remember? What will you build to remember? This is indeed a remarkable time to be a part of history and to be a part of much-needed change. May God grant us strong memories to remember and courage to continue the work of change.

Dreams of Screams

I dreamed of screams last night.

It’s just a dream I told myself.

But it wasn’t.

Last night the screams of justice were heard all across our country. These screams were followed closely by the screams of fear from people who were victims of tear gas and rubber bullets. Screams of citizens trying to make their voice heard and realizing that the system and government in America are going to fight back. Fight to continue to oppress. Fight to continue to hold power and control.

My screams turned to tears and sobs.

I dreamed of screams last night on Pentecost Monday when we remember the mighty rushing wind of the Spirit coming so that all may be free.

Come Mighty Spirit, carrying these screams to the heart of God and let justice roll down.

Dreams of Fire

I dreamed of fire last night.

It’s just a dream I told myself.

But it wasn’t.

Last night fires raged with voices demanding justice all across our country. Fires that have been smoldering in the hearts and souls of those who have suffered every day in an unjust system. A system designed to benefit some and oppress most.

And some are surprised.

Surprised that there was this amount of suffering in our country, in our city. Surprised to come face to face with their privilege, their participation in a system that harms so many.

I dreamed of fire last night.

The night of Pentecost Sunday.

Come Spirit of Truth, burn within us the compassion to listen and courage to act to let justice roll down.

Entering Eastertide: Hope

We are just days away from Pentecost, which marks the end of the fifty days of Eastertide. In the season of Eastertide, the church calendar follows the stories and journeys of the apostles who have received the Spirit of Truth and have preached this good news all over. This is where the story of the life, death, and resurrection spread so that we are still talking about it today.

If you follow the book of Acts, you’ll find that there is a pattern where Paul goes into the synagogue to teach and is the message of hope is received by the Jewish people. Then after a day or two, the Jewish leadership gets involved and they either run Paul out of town of beat and imprison him. This is when Paul is often taken in by a Gentile and the message of hope transforms whole households.

Our congregation was already studying Acts before the pandemic and before the Eastertide season began and now as we study together, I am amazed at how much we need these words. We need the hope of those first apostles. We need the courage of those first apostles. We need the imagination of those first apostles.

Because we are creating church together in the most unusual ways. We are spreading the message of hope to new communities in new ways. Thanks be to God for the Spirit of Truth that leads and guides us on our way.

Entering Eastertide: Loss

We lose a lot of stuff around the house. There is a basket full of cars, but we can’t find the one car we really really need before we can do anything else. Our sixteen-month-old has figured out how to open the toy drawer and the trash can, so we lose pacis left and right. Although there seems to be an abundance of them, there is only one that will offer comfort she needs to drift off to sleep.

As we move throughout the day, I find myself saying when we confront one of these missing items: “It will show up. Things always show up.” This has provided time and space to let us look for things now or later without frustration and tears.

Losing items around the house or forgetting where you put something down is not uncommon, especially in the midst of consistent change.  My congregation jokes with me because during high, holy seasons at church I always lose my keys.  They have learned to laugh and help me look. My mind and my heart are in a different place during these seasons and so the every day remembering gets put on the back burner.

When things that we have been looking for do show up, we all get excited. We share the funny place we found the item and we share in the show of recovering the sought after item.

Collectively, we haven’t lost something that will show up eventually. We have lost over 100,000 people. Human souls connected and invested in families and communities. We can’t forget. We remember every day when we wake up and as we try to get a little bit of sleep at night. As we reached this devastating milestone, we hold onto being the country that has the most deaths and most cases of COVID-19. In seventeen states around the country, those numbers are not decreasing, they are increasing.

Loss surrounds us. Grief engulfs us.

And as we grieve for many of us, we are still alone at home trying to do our part to help those numbers stop increasing so drastically. Loss has always been a part of inhabiting this dusty bodies, but that doesn’t mean that loss doesn’t bring us back to remembering we have but one life to live. One chance to care for others. One chance to offer hope. One chance to offer love.

I know that there are many states that are opening up. I know that there are many states without mask laws. I know that there are other people and other families traveling and getting together. I know that it can all be confusing and overwhelming because there is so much information out there. I know that you are tired and weary and just want a change of pace. I also know that bearing this amount of loss is sometimes just too much to carry.

The loss and grief won’t go away. These will be the things that change us. My hope is that it changes us not to be people who hold onto to our lives and our desires so desperately that more loss comes. My hope is that by remembering this loss, again and again, every day, 100,000 minutes every day, we will transform into more caring and compassionate people.