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Caring for Self and Others in Times of Trouble: Some Spiritual Tools and Tips

This was shared with me from Alexander Levering Kern, graduate of Guilford College and Executive Director Center for Spirituality, Dialogue, and Service (CSDS) at Northeastern University. He and his family attends Friends Meeting at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I think you will find it helpful. Please share with others as you see fit.

  1. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe some more. Take time in your day, at any moment, to take ten deep even breaths. Carve out 5-10 minutes to meditate or practice mindfulness or contemplative prayer. Start here, now, wherever you are.
  2. Ground yourself in the present moment. Focus your awareness on something real, enduring, or beautiful in your surroundings. Look up often. Discover the wonder and awe that is already here.
  3. Acknowledge your fears, anxieties, concerns. Offer them up in prayer, if you pray. Write them in your journal. Share them with others. Feel what you feel, honor it, and know that it is not the final word.
  4. Remember you are not alone. Ever. You are surrounded by care and support. Reach out. 
  5. Create and sustain community. Show up for one another. Listen compassionately. Practice empathy. Even while avoiding “close physical contact,” message the people you care about. Stand with those most vulnerable and those who suffer the brunt of prejudice and fear. Check in on folks. Call your mother, father, guardian, mentor, little sibling, long lost friend. 
  6. Unplug, judiciously. While staying aware of developments, do not let the Corona-chaos govern you, but forgive yourself when and if it does.  
  7. Practice kindness. There is a temptation in health scares to view others as potential threats. Remember we are in this together. While practicing health guidelines and appropriate caution, remember to engage one another. Smile when you can. Bring good deeds and good energy into our world.
  8. Stay healthy through sleep, diet, exercise. See healing and wellness holistically – mind, body, and spirit. 
  9. Make art. Discover, imagine, engage your hopes and fears, the beauty and ugliness of our world. Write, paint, sing, dance, soar.
  10. Practice gratitude. In the face of crises, make note of the things for which you are grateful: your breath, the particular shade of the sky at dusk – or dawn. The color blue, the color green, the gifts and strengths you have, other people in your life, the ability to laugh. A pet.
  11. Connect with your spiritual, religious, humanist, cultural, or other communities. Find strength and solace and power in traditions, texts, rituals, practices, holy times and seasons. 
  12. Pray as you are able, silently, through song, in readings, through ancestors. Remember the long view of history, the rhythms and cycles of nature, the invisible threads that connect us all.
  13. Practice hope. Trust in the future and our power to endure and persist, to live fully into the goodness that awaits.  
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Advent and The Gift of Life (Luke 1:57-80)

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.??? They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.??? Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.??? And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become???? For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him (Luke 1:57-66).

Waiting. Waiting for an offspring. Waiting for a voice. Waiting for salvation. We all know what it is to exist in a state of waiting, but what do we expect, and how do we respond? Waiting can leads us in at least two directions: despair or hope. With despair can come the sense of entitlement; I am waiting for what is mine. Hope is situated within the context of God’s ongoing faithfulness.

Elizabeth and Zechariah have spent their lives in wait and at the birth of their son have chosen to remain hopeful – that is see their ‘blessing’ as a gift from God not something they had a ‘right’ to. One way we see their hope is in the way they go about naming their son. In this passage, we see there was an expectation that the newborn be named for the father, Zechariah. When asked the name of the child, however, Elizabeth and Zechariah dramatically relinquished their parental ‘right’ to carry on the family name and the legacy. Because Elizabeth and Zechariah were willing to view their long awaited blessing (to have an heir) within the context of God’s faithfulness, John’s life was freed to be a blessing for all Israel.

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Avoiding the Text? Reflections On Reading in Community

nrsv bible

My wife and I recently joined a new small group at our church and I we’re both pretty excited about. Over the past 8 years or so I can’t really think of a small group that I was a part of but wasn’t leading in some capacity, so this is the first group where we can enjoy a non-leadership role for awhile. Another reason why this small group appeals to us is because it’s a Bible study, that’s right, and old school Bible study. We’re going to be reading and discussing Paul’s letter to the Colossians, and reading the book “Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire,” a book I keep hearing really great things about, and sounds like it’s right up my ally!

Anyways, Rob, the leader asked as our icebreaker,

What presuppositions do you approach the Biblical text with?

What a great question to begin a yearlong Bible study with, and an even better question for the many of us who have grown up in the church and have found ourselves avoiding the text.