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Courage does not happen…

Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life. Shannon Alder

Meditation: This new experience of collectively needing to change our life style due to a natural threat has been something I have been intentionally avoiding to think about or imagine. What about you? Themes like climate change is another question I have been avoiding as well. As it is coming on so slowly, I have not had to make major life style changes yet. However, a virus is another thing. It is here today, it is invisible and by the time the symptoms show, it has spread to hundreds of people within a week, unless we take precautions. Courage means facing the question: “Might our convenient life style change for a long time? Might we need to learn how to adjust to nature’s ways? Do we need to learn new ways of stay connected emotionally, spiritually, auditory and visually instead of taking the physical presence with each other for granted? Courage means learning something new, even when I don’t want to. It means learning to use technology in new ways. It means balancing home and work life in a new way. It means taking care of myself and my family in a new way. Courage means to learn many new things in a short time and become creative, even when it feels scary and overwhelming.

Prayer: Creator God, we so often think that we as humans are the center of the universe. And then nature reminds us how vulnerable we are individually and collectively. This social distancing time is challenging as we are facing questions we often try to avoid. Fill us with courage: Help us to embrace making mistakes while learning new things, and help us to teach others who are even more afraid than we are about new technological ways of connecting. Amen

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the LORD, because you know that your labor in the LORD is not in vain. 1. Corinthians 15:58

Taking the first step…

“Faith Is Taking The First Step Even When… … you don’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King

Meditation: Many of us don’t know how to make it through this time where work, school, daily rhythms, habits, rituals and social gatherings are suddenly turned upside down or have disappeared. It is like standing in a large new building we are not familiar with at the bottom of a large staircase that will be difficult to climb and that will lead to a place we have never been before, not to mention that we did not choose it nor wanted to climb up in the first place.

Faith is taking the first step… believing that the One holding the staircase will also hold us. Believing that what expects us is not more powerful than the One who has called us and who loves us. Taking the first step with trembling, with tears, with feelings of anger and possibly dread. And yet, in faith we take the first step, create new first habits, learn new social media tools so we can at least see each other, learn with our children how to log onto online school websites, and wonder how to pay the bills…wonder how our loved ones, our neighbors will make it with us up those stairs….

Prayer: God everything has changed. We feel mountains rising before us and terrain opening up we have never been in. Come into our many human feelings – ranging from dread, to anger and even despair. Fill us with faith, with trust. Help us to take only this one first step today, and then tomorrow the second step – aware that we are climbing into the unknown – holding onto Your promises and holding onto the communities we are part of, even when we cannot hug each other. Amen

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:11

Visiting Fear…

The presence of fear does not mean you have no faith. Fear visits everyone. But make your fear a visitor and not a resident. Max Lucado

Meditation: Martin Luther said it similarly: “You cannot keep the birds (of sorrow) from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair”.  How can we do that?

We can reach out to others and encourage each other. We can go out into nature and let her comfort us. We can listen or read uplifting thoughts from the Bible or other inspiring texts or authors. As we become creative, maybe write, draw or make music, the birds of sorrow will have no place to land. We can surround ourselves with peaceful music, positive voices and encouraging, loving family members, friends and neighbors (even only over the phone or via skype).

Fear will come. Fear will try to grip our hearts and minds. Fear cannot be avoided. And yet, we have many antidotes that keeps fear from settling in for good.

Prayer: Loving God, we are fearful for our loved ones, for all who are vulnerable, for ourselves. Let this fear visit us for short moments, and then come with your Healing Spirit that drives out all fear. You are the Spirit of love, of creativity and comfort. Help us stay connected and not become isolated in this time of forced social isolation.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”  2. Timothy 1:7

“Praying for Everyone…”

“You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment. In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

Meditation: Here in the US, we live with a deeply dividing “Zeitgeist”. Divisive and fear creating forces from within and from without have continued to divide groups from other groups, one minority from another, one ethnicity from another. Emotions of suspicion and paranoia are being intentionally ignited and fueled. Isolationism and narcissism have infected even the media. Hardly any world news, but only internal affairs have filled the air time for years now. Humanity at large, science and nature are being ignored and discounted. Narcissistic illusions of invulnerability and elitism are reigning.

However, in these days Mother Earth, nature, is reminding us that we are not divided, that the US is not isolated or shielded, but that we are interconnected as humans all over the globe. The Coronavirus is a reminder that all of humanity is One. We are all vulnerable and depend on each other and on science to engage nature respectfully in a way that healing and safety are being made possible. Ironic how mother nature calls us together and proves our “Zeitgeist” wrong. No group, no ethnicity, no culture, no country is immune from vulnerability. We are deeply interconnected. Let us pray for each other for safety and healing, let us share resources and support each other, as we are all ONE.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people. 1. Timothy 2:1

Struggling with myself…

When you struggle with your partner, you are struggling with yourself. Every fault you see in them touches a denied weakness in yourself. ~ Deepak Chopra

Meditation: When we are living very closely with someone, we get to know all her faults, all his”warts”, all her habits. Some we like, some drive us crazy. Those attributes we especially dislike in our partners might be an invitation for us to look at.

Why am I so judgmental about his/her particular behavior? Does she have a freedom I wish I had? Does he have a way I dislike because I can’t allow myself to be that way? Our families of origin, our cultures, our fixed values can box us in. We have preconceived notions of seeing and projecting on our partner. We begin to struggle within the relationship.

What if I became curious: “How does he see himself? Why is she acting the way she does? What values does she hold? What values does he hold? How do we complement each other?

When we move out of our perceived boxes of “right and wrong”, “strength and weakness” thinking, we might discover that our partner’s way of living is an invitation for us to broaden our horizon, to heal from our past, to open us up to new possibilities of seeing and living.

Prayer: God of opposites, you often bring partners together so that they would learn about You as the “holder of everything”, “the holder of opposites”. Free us from judgment and help us learn from each other. Amen

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good. Romans 8:28

Religious/Political Pretensions

As a Christian, I’m passionately opposed to American pretensions that we have special standing with God; to political office-seekers who play on our religious differences; and to the religious arrogance that says, ‘Our truth is the only truth.’ Parker Palmer

Meditation: Jesus embodied and taught the inclusion of all. He questioned all those who believed they had a special standing with God. Jesus revealed and opposed where religion was used for political gains and political power. He disappointed even some of his disciples who hoped he would use his spiritual power for political gains. Jesus never wanted to become an “idol” as a form of abstract and intolerant “truth” that some Christians have made out of him. As those worship their own dogma, they try to control and kill others’ souls with words from the Bible. They randomly rip words out of its historic and cultural context and confuse everybody. All these three described spiritual estrangements (“sins”) are happening at this time, in this country. And so I join my teacher Parker Palmer in his passion for the inclusion of all, for spiritual freedom from manipulative political power and for truly listening to Jesus’s challenging words of the beatitudes instead of following an image of Jesus as an idol of our own making.
Prayer: Jesus, Your name is being abused more than ever before. Your message is being distorted. Christians worship a Jewish Old Testament God image of wrath and revenge to justify their rage  and their war and violence hungry ways. Religious practices from more than 3000 years ago are being used to legitimize their “eye for an eye” mentality. Jesus, it is as if You never came. We pray that You will convert this nation from their lost and distorted ways of worshiping violence, exclusion and war back to your message of non-violence, inclusion and peace. Jesus, have mercy on us. Amen

To those who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

Adapting to lunatics…

It is remarkable how easily children and grown-ups adapt to living in a dictatorship organized by lunatics. A. N. Wilson

Meditation: Usually adapting to change is a healthy survival mechanism. However, if humans adapt to toxic and destructive environments, the outcome is not necessarily health. Survival possibly, but not health. A worrisome development of the recent past is that world center stage is being taken by several “lunatics” whose use of their power and position threatens the well being of whole nations. Dictatorship can be experienced either literally or implicitly.  Dictators are unable to relate in a mutually beneficial way. They demonstrate the inability to listen to anybody. Dictators take huge risks without taking humanity into account. All that is being decided only serves themselves and a few who are loyal to them. Others are being eliminated quickly. A dictator fears threat and therefore becomes a threat. I wonder if institutions and the media have not caught up or might even collude with what is happening. Are we pretending “all is normal” when things are really “crazy”? How can societies adapt that quickly to dictator (like) realities?

Prayer: God, our current reality is “mind boggling”. We are unconsciously adapting and conforming every day a little more. You call us to not conform, but be transformed. You want to be the one to renew our minds. Help us discern what Your will is. And Your will is good and pleasing. Your will is for us to be of sound mind. You want us humans to be whole and not fragmented. Liberate us from all “crazy” things we are seduced to adapt to and that are destructive. We seek refuge in Your presence. Amen

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Perpetual, constant and regular violence…

The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence. The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it. Adolf Hitler

When somebody challenges you, fight back. Be brutal, be tough. Donald Trump

Meditation: Intimidation and violence are the principles of a totalitarian regime. Democracy at its best is built on the principle that people agree to disagree and allow the majority to make decisions in dialogue with and in consideration of the minority. Calling democrats who do not clap for him “treasonous” is the behavior of a despot and not of the president of a democratic country. While Hitler took violence to an extreme physical level, this president employs constant and regular emotional and verbal violence. And after two years he is now using right wing radical terrorists to actually inflict physical violence. He daily publicly shames certain people or organizations and bullies them in his Twitter tweets. The congress GOP majority lies or remains silent about what the president has said/done or did not say/do. They fear professional retribution. And so the great “strength” of our president (according to Hitler) is that he forces those who fear him to imitate him. Even his supposedly level headed high ranking military chief and staff are beginning to use derogatory language towards immigrants. What recourse and protection does our democratic country have against the employment of totalitarian principles?

Prayer: God, we are sickened by the constant use of violence that is being strategically used by the president of this country. The media either promotes his violent behaviors and words or tries to overcome them by rational argument. God, show this country that democracy as an “intellectual and educated form of government” will not withstand these new principles built on pure instincts, violence and emotions. God, make us passionate about our democracy, so we can save it. Amen

Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place. Jeremiah 22:3 (NRSV)

Totalitarian Rule…

The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists. Hannah Arendt

Meditation: The current president creates fiction by lying wherever he goes. The people he put in charge of major federal agencies do not believe in science and do not adhere to facts. Everything is up for “interpretation”. Own agendas are being pushed, under the premise that reality is “just perspective”, and that random narratives can be created that will replace scientific reality. Scientific and proven facts are called “fake news”. It is deeply concerning that major players within the current government collude upholding this fiction creating philosophy. The recent federal legal investigation is being called a “witch hunt”, while government bound news channels create a reality for its constituents where there is no distinction anymore between fact and fiction, true or false. Our democratic country is being undermined and at war from within. Totalitarian rule is what our current president idealizes. He uses the white nationalist movement to lead this war and stir up racial violence and fanatic ideas. We call upon religious leaders and scientists to join forces. The alleged conflict of the modern era between religion and science suddenly feels ridiculous. Today’s mandate of religion and science conjoint is to hold accountable an emerging totalitarian regime that hides behind a democratic façade while slowly dismantling it.

Prayer: God, we mourn the increasing elimination of ethics, morals and science as pillars of our culture. Any lie can claim to be truth, and corrupted media are being used to brain wash and manipulate the masses. God, we experience not only the total attack on and undermining of spiritual values and of science, but we fear the takeover of democracy by totalitarian forces. God, we pray that Your Spirit of truth may empower science, law and religions to join forces, so we as a nation might withstand what is happening. Amen

“Why can’t you understand one word I say? Here’s why: You can’t handle it. You’re from your father, the Devil, and all you want to do is please him. He was a killer from the very start. He couldn’t stand the truth because there wasn’t a shred of truth in him. When the Liar speaks, he makes it up out of his lying nature and fills the world with lies.” John 8:42-44

Role playing as coping with mental illness…

Comedy can be a cathartic way to deal with personal trauma. Robin Williams

Meditation: Mental Illness is still something our society does have difficulty talking about. Many have to hide their depression or other mental health diagnosis and pretend all is well. One way of coping is through humor and through acting or playing “the clown”. Being “funny” can serve as a way to remain part of community, as nothing is worse than struggling with mental health and then becoming additionally isolated. Building a relationship with a therapist can be a way to stop hiding. It can be a place to grieve and talk about the traumatic experiences that have happened and the consequent emotional challenges. Finding a relationship that is caring can feel like the image of the eagle hovering over its young. When we reveal our vulnerabilities without being judged, healing can happen. We discover more effective ways of coping than just pretending, using humor or acting. God uses people to emotionally and spiritually care for us. I wonder where we need to be found and attended to? What is our “barren and howling waste or desert”?

Prayer: Gracious God, You are seeking us. We pray for all who are in need for a safe place to heal from trauma – be it abuse, neglect, assault or tragedy. We pray that our society becomes less superficial and sees beyond role playing. Let us all become more aware of our own and others’ mental/soul health needs. Thank you for providing shelter in the presence of those who are trained to be with people who went through trauma. Let us all find healing and relief in our emotional struggles. Amen

In a desert land God found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; God guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft. Deuteronomy 32: 10-11