April 4, 2020
So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:42)
Friends, Donald Hall died on Friday. We give thanks to God for the gift of Donald’s life and for the opportunity to know and love him. I don’t yet know the plans for a service but will let you know as soon as I hear. Much thanks goes to Rich Cotton who took such good care of Donald.
This morning, Pat Bergstrom forwarded to me an email she’d received from Hope Floats Healing & Wellness Center, saying she’d found it to be “thoughtful, realistic, and hope-filled.” I agree, and have quoted some of it here:
Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, writes: As director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, I advocate for our human need to acknowledge and embrace our darker emotions. Our culture usually isn’t so good at honoring loss and supporting others who are grieving, even though they are essential parts of our lives. Instead, to our detriment, we tend to focus almost exclusively on the happy and the distracting and the fun.
It’s a question of balance. We need both, you see. We need to honor the light and the dark, the happy and the sad—and everything in between—because all of it belongs. All of it is authentic. And whatever is authentic is normal and necessary.
Usually we’re out of balance because we choose to shine our awareness only on the “good stuff.” But right now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re at risk for the balance tipping too far the other way, in the direction of fear and despair.
Yes, in difficult times, we must remember to hope.
What is hope? It’s an expectation of a good that is yet to be. It is an inner knowing that the future holds positive things. It is trust that no matter the current circumstances, the days to come will reveal happiness. It’s forward-looking—yet experienced in the now.
Like mourning, nurturing hope is active. It’s something we can do. Let’s look at what we can do to embrace hope even as we are experiencing the many losses caused by this pandemic.
As I write this, most of us in North America are sheltering in place. Though our normal lives have been completely disrupted and we may be experiencing very real personal losses (sick friends and family members, financial jeopardy, lost connections with loved ones, to name just a few), many of us are also, in this moment, safe and comfortable.
Practicing mindfulness means learning to be present to our immediate surroundings right now. As I write this, the sun peeks out from billowy clouds in a denim-blue sky. I see spring crocuses blooming. My dogs sleep at my feet. Whenever I am mindful of the present moment, I find gratitude, and gratitude helps me access hope, which we might think of as gratitude for what is to come.
Being mindful in the now also helps me build relationships with the people I care about. In the now I can share quality time with my wife, and even though I can’t visit them in person, I can also spend time each day on video calls with my children and friends. The more I can use this time to strengthen relationships with my dear ones, the more hope I will have for the future gatherings we will share.
Relinquish the illusion of control
There’s a fine line between a) informing ourselves about the pandemic and steps we can take to keep ourselves and others safe, and b) overconsuming information (and misinformation), causing undue stress and even despair.
In this information age, we have limitless content at our fingertips. We could read, watch, and listen to new information about COVID-19 for many hours a day and still never be “caught up.” It makes sense that we might be tempted to overconsume information in an effort to feel in control of what is happening. The trouble is, we as individuals can’t control this epidemic, and we can’t even fully control what happens to us and our loved ones.
Relinquishing the illusion of control can lessen our anxiety and help us to build trust in our own capacity to cope with whatever happens. If we work on mindfulness, we don’t have to obsess and worry. Instead, we can learn to be OK with our lack of control and trust in our own resilience. When tomorrow comes, we will handle what comes tomorrow. Today we are only responsible for today.
If we believe that our futures will include moments of joy, love, and meaning, we already have within us that spark of hope. We can grow that spark into a flame by intentionally building hope into each day.
How do we build hope during difficult times? Here are a few ways:
- By taking part in activities we care about to the extent that we can while sheltering in place
- By engaging in spiritual practices
- By making a collage of words or pictures that symbolize hope in our mind and heart
- By intentionally imagining the futures we desire
- By making future plans that excite us and that we know we will enjoy
- By helping others
- By staying in close contact with the people we care about, ideally through video and phone calls
- By taking care of our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our social connections, and our souls
In the midst of our fears, we can still live, feel joy, plan for tomorrow, hope that all will be well; in the midst of our joy, we can acknowledge our fears. We were made by God to feel both fearful in the face of this sort of thing, and hopeful for tomorrow.
Join me tomorrow at the online worship at the Old South Church in Boston – 10am at https://www.oldsouth.org. Take a picture of your homemade palm and send it along to me to share with everyone!
Today’s email includes resources for Palm Sunday. Click here: https://illustratedmin.s3.amazonaws.com/weekly-resources/PalmSunday.pdf?ck_subscriber_id=136888751
Included is a PDF of a palm branch – you’re invited to print it out, color it, maybe cut it out, and display it. And there’s also resources for the children you know. Feel free to forward it to others if you want.
Many thanks to those of you who have sent your pledge into the church. Our expenses continue, so we really appreciate your efforts to help us pay our bills. Checks may be mailed to the church at 5 Gibbs Avenue, Wareham MA 02571.
There will be a meeting of the Church Council, via Zoom, next Wednesday evening at 7pm.
- Ron and Mary Westgate ask that we pray for Michael Layman, who has the COVID-19 virus. He is the brother of their daughter-in-law.
- Steve Chanona’s daughter Annie, who is in Florida, has the COVID-19 virus. Keep her and Steve in your prayers.
If you have a prayer concern feel free to send it in to be included in this daily email.