Your efforts matter…

“Don’t worry if those around you aren’t doing their best. Just worry about how you can make yourself worthy. Doing your best is the surest way to remind those around you to do their best.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Meditation It is difficult not to feel isolated and small at this time. What does my breathing, my mindfulness, my small contribution to peace do? What do I contribute to the larger world when I try to model justice, peace and understanding in my small community? The concept of “interbeing” and the belief of God’s Kingdom among us reassures me, that even my small contributions to peace (with my children, my husband, my co-workers, my brothers and sisters in Christ, my fellow protestors) will make a difference. Don’t worry about the large picture. Let God handle that. Just focus on what you can impact today, each moment that is before you, in a positive and loving manner. Breathe, practice mindfulness, compassion and love right where you are. And you will embody the Holy Spirit and God’s Kingdom among us.

Prayer: God of Life, of Justice and of Peace, we seek refuge in you at this time. Encourage our small efforts to contribute to your Kingdom here on Earth. Give us your Peace that surpasses our understanding. Let us see the interconnectedness of the small and the large, and help us trust that our small contributions to Peace on Earth do matter!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phillipians 4:6

Do not worry… even in a time like this?

“Worrying does not accomplish anything. Even if you worry twenty times more, it will not change the situation of the world. In fact, your anxiety will only make things worse. Even though things are not as we would like, we can still be content, knowing we are trying our best and will continue to do so. If we don’t know how to breathe, smile,and live every moment of our life deeply, we will never be able to help anyone. I am happy in the present moment. I do not ask for anything else. I do not expect any additional happiness or conditions that will bring about more happiness. The most important practice is aimlessness, not running after things, not grasping.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Meditation: The Buddhist practice of breathing in and breathing out, of being fully in our body as a way of being in the present moment is an amazing spiritual way of stopping our minds of racing and worrying. This does not mean to withdraw from this world. Yet it means to not become consumed by this world’s dysfunctions, traumas and threats. Jesus mirrored this Buddhist teaching by calling us to not worry, but to throw our worries onto God. (1. Peter 5:7)

Prayer: God, you are in my breath. You calm my body. My calm breathing is able to bring my mind together with my body once again. Alone, my mind starts racing and my fear is skyrocketing. Together with my body, my mind becomes calm again, and I am able to pray. I am not alone. You are with me. I am in you. Amen

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6: 34

Exhaustion…

“The deep meaning of the cross of Christ is that there is no suffering on earth that is not borne by God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Meditation: When we encounter persons who are suffering either physically, emotionally or mentally, we often use all that we have and pour our strength, health and wellbeing into that person or into the situation, to make things better. That is how helpers come about. The world often experiences relief and moments of betterment through those who want to help. And yet, when we become such helpers our resources become easily exhausted after a while. We start feeling in body, mind and spirit similar ailments that the suffering persons have we are trying to help. Many people like social workers, nurses or pastors start burning out. But also family members who care for the generation above or below know this phenomenon. The experience of having taken in too much suffering of others is called compassion fatigue. This exhaustion becomes very real and is often accompanied by symptoms like depression, complete physical exhaustion or even spiritual despair.

Prayer: God, in times of such exhaustion I am called to come to you and rest. I am invited to acknowledge and accept my human limitations and boundaries. I am not You. I am human. The other persons’ suffering needs to be held by Your hands that are bigger than mine. I am not able to bear all suffering, but Christ did. You don’t ask me to help, just to serve. And so I allow myself to come to You and rest from trying to help. I hide myself in Your arms, gracious God,  and I stop helping but begin to serve those who are suffering by praying for them. Sometimes we cannot help and we cannot even bear the suffering, but You can and will. Amen

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11: 28-30

The Psychopathology of the Masses…

The psychopathology of the masses is rooted in the psychology of the individual. Carl Jung

Meditation: How in the world did our country end up in the situation we are in? Did our individual mental condition become manifested in a collective psychopathology? Our current time in the US can maybe best be described with the words of a trauma survivor. Eve Ensler said: “I think culture is where things change in us deeply. But right now, I think that people are very traumatized. They are very scared. Having grown up in a house with a perpetrator who was violent every day and terrorizing every day, I feel like that this country is suddenly very much like the house and the family I grew up in. Every day we are glued to our phones, glued to our television; “What is this psychopath going to do next? How will he embarrass us? Who will he bully or hurt or humiliate today? It’s so easy to get locked into a syndrome where the perpetrator is ruling your life.”

Prayer: God, our country is going through a severe mental illness. Collectively we have experienced several traumatizing external events in the past years, and then we experience also severe traumatizing reactions and handling of those events. We are afraid. We are feeling trapped in a “family situation” that traumatizes us daily. God have mercy on our country. Restore us to health. Help us to make decisions that lead us collectively out of this system as it is set up currently. Free us from all oppression. Amen

There are six things the Lord… detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family. Proverbs 6:16-19

Chaos in the White House and on our Streets

In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you. Deepak Chopra

Meditation: Many of us are deeply concerned these days and weeks about the political chaos this country finds itself in. The more investigators are closing in daily on our current president ‘s family for possible committed crimes, the more the president’s psychopathology is manifesting. Trying to distract from the legal facts that are surfacing daily, he has to create chaos, no matter how. And so this cornered president orders troops to create chaos on our streets. Currently a cornered, paranoid, deeply narcissistic and blackmailed president is the greatest danger to this country and to our world.  And behind all of this emerging chaos hides an actively blackmailing Russian president who continues to gain power over and against American and international best interests.

This experience is comparable with a family’s complete break down due to the dysfunctional mental illness of the parent, and then another outside entity using this chaos created to take over the family dynamics, but not to rescue or restore, but to make worse, exploit and ultimately take over.

Prayer: God, we breathe deeply and thus pray in the stillness within to not allow the chaos to make us paranoid as well. We breathe deeply and thus pray in the stillness within to not allow fear to take us over. You have given us the Spirit of a sound mind. We need to keep the American “family” from collapsing and from being taken over by outside powers. This president has crossed the line many times. Wake us up! Wake up this nation, so collectively we will make an intervention to rescue and restore, so we will prevent the worst. Amen.

For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2. Corinthians 1:7 

The Tyrannical Despiser…

At such a time as this it is easy for the tyrannical despiser of men to exploit the baseness of the human heart, nurturing it and calling it by other names. Fear he calls responsibility. Desire he calls keenness. Irresolution becomes solidarity. Brutality becomes masterfulness, Human weaknesses are played upon with unchaste seductiveness, so that meanness and baseness are reproduced and multiplied ever anew. The vilest contempt for mankind goes about its sinister business with the holiest of protestations of devotion to the human cause.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Meditation: We find ourselves at a time of big political change. Some of us feel weak and afraid at a time where a strong leader has left who stood up for peace in the US and in the world. The kind of strength that is now being portrayed seems to undermine basic agreed upon values of our democracy like “freedom of speech” or “fact checking”. The strength of our democracy and of our peaceful coexistence as people who are different is undermined when certain perspectives are being attacked and facts no longer mean anything, but only certain “interpretations” are portrait as “the truth”.

We, the people…We, the people need all the strength we can find. We, the people need our grounding beyond ourselves at a time where certain assumed and often taken for granted values of our democracy are being dismantled.We, the people need God’s assurance that a power greater than ourselves, greater than any politician, wants to be the source of our strength, and that this power wants to bless this world and its people with peace.

Prayer: God, hear our prayer for strength and for peace! Amen

Psalm 29:11 The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.

Jesus waited…

Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; he waited until one of them turned to him. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Meditation: When Christians misunderstand the New Testament as “a marching order to convert everybody they meet to Christ”, this behavior often feels to those pursued as manipulative, boundary violating and obsessive. Those who are trying to convert others often believe that they have to “save those from hell”. At times those converting Christians seem to have a real fear that unless they “lead” a certain amount of people “to Christ”, they themselves might “go to hell”. However, this fear based religious behavior does not resemble the way Jesus approached others. Nothing that we learn about Jesus includes behavior based on fear, manipulation or obsession. Jesus usually just lives his trust in a loving and compassionate God and others begin turning to him. Why do we Christians choose a fear based religion if we can follow the example of Jesus? Let us wait patiently for others to be attracted to the way of living and loving that Jesus invited us to.

Prayer: Gracious God, we are deeply grateful that the life of Jesus was built not on fear, but on love. We are grateful that he believed in Paradise as a place united with You, and that he did not threaten anybody with going to “hell”. Thank You that just turning toward You opens up for us Your Grace, Your forgiveness and acceptance. Let us realize that we cannot manipulate, threaten, pursue or force others to believe in You. Thank You that we can follow Your lead as You patiently wait until we humans trust You and turn toward You without any fear and without any coercion. Amen

“And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:40-43 (NASB)

Never stop loving…

If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. James O’Barr

Meditation: “There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so.  One must simply hold out and endure it.  At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled, one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve – even in pain – the authentic relationship. Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Prayer: Gracious God, as some of us walk in grief and have to adjust to a world without the beloved person physically present, we pray for them as they remember their life before the painful loss. Be present in those feelings of emptiness. Be present in the pain of missing. Be the one who transforms our torment of memory into silent joy. Amen

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

Compassion…

Nothing that we despise in other men (women) is inherently absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don’t do, and more in light of what they suffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Meditation: When I experience and don’t like certain traits and behaviors in others, it is easy to start judging them. Spiritually, the first step might be to pause and become aware by asking myself: “That I am reacting so strongly to this or that behavior in the other, what does this have to do with me?” Sometimes I am unaware, but I might wrestle with something in myself that parallels exactly what I dislike in the other, and that I wish I did not have. Humility means that I admit why I react harshly and critically namely based on unfinished business within myself. The second spiritual step is to look at the other person for what they have been through or what they have suffered so that they have become or act a certain way. When I ask open and compassionate questions, I will learn more about the person whose behavior or traits I despise. I might find surprising stories of human suffering, which will likely increase my compassion for the other. And interestingly this experience of listening often increases my self-compassion as well, as I am sometimes blind to how my own suffering has made me impatient and harsh with myself and with others. As a beloved and chosen one by God, I am invited to grow spiritually by clothing myself with new traits and new behaviors like compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience. Those “new clothes” will first heal me, and I will then also become able to extend healing behavior and words to others.

Prayer: God, take away my impatience, my harshness, my judgmental tone and voice. Take my assumptions away about why others are or act a certain way. Help me ask more open ended and gentle questions. Help me to become more compassionate, more patient, more open to the flawed humanity in others and in myself. Your love sees our suffering and our broken hearts behind the ways we are and act. Your Spirit of compassion is gentle, humble and kind. Clothe us with Your Spirit as we shiver from the nakedness of our harsh judgements. Your example and Your love warms our very being. Amen

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

Interrupted…

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Meditation: Parenting is a journey of constant interruptions. Your kids wake you up at night. They call from school with a fever to be picked up. They hurt themselves, right when you try to get some work done. They cry when the guests are about to arrive. Our children run into the house with excitement having to tell us the latest news of the day, interrupting our quiet moment. We only vaguely remember how it was when we finally became young adults who enjoyed the fact that we were at last in control of our schedule and that we found independence. However, when we then became parents and formed close relationships with our children, we quickly realized that their needs could interrupt our schedule at any time. The new way of living as a parent meant being interrupted and attending to the other. This experience teaches us more about God. We discover how parenting matches God’s ways with us well. We remember Jesus modeling and teaching many times about God allowing to be interrupted and God interrupting.

Prayer: Parent God, thank you for allowing us to come to you with our needs, stories and excitements without hesitation or apology. We can come to you at day or night, with fever or pain, with joy or excitement. And you listen. You allow to be interrupted. You attend to us. And then at times You also interrupt our schedule, our plans. Open us up to listen closely to You as we learn to allow being interrupted by You. Attune us to Your interrupting voice. We marvel how Your relationship with us is meant to be an intimate one, just like parenting is. Amen

“But finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.”  Luke 5: 19