Sunday Reflection

silhouette photography of boat on water during sunset
Photo by Johannes Plenio 

I don’t know about you, but I woke up to those wild winds and couldn’t see anything outside my windows but rocking trees.  I stood on the porch to try to get a look toward the barn, but it was impossible.  The only thing I could see was the outline of trees being wind blown farther than I thought possible and the sound of trees being ripped up by their roots and trees cracking, crashing, and breaking.  

I shut the door, went inside into the safest room in my house, and hunkered down.  I know some of you felt the same; I heard your stories.  I know some thought about, or actually did, hunker down in basements for extra safety in those extra exposed places.  As I shut the front door on the winds, I gave thanks for solid walls and a roof over my head.  

I prayed that the house would stay safe and that we and the animals would be safe. I worried about the cars and the shed and other things.  I feared for the safety of our ourselves and our friends and neighbors.  We waited for morning light, wondering what we would wake up to.  

Fear.  In the midst of the fierce squall and wild winds, I felt fear.  It’s interesting to see what you fear for, pray for, and worry about in the midst of moments.  Your choice of words might be different than mine, but what did your pray for?  What did you give thanks for? What did you worry about?  What did you fear for? 

In the midst of chaos was it easy or hard to find God, Jesus, Grace, to Trust?  Fear is primal.  Faith is a balm, a practice.  For some, it is as easy as fear, but for most it is not the first go-to.  Fear, often leads to anger and frustration instead of faith and trust.  A sense of “why me?”  “What’s going to happen?”  “Sometimes, I deserve (blank).”  “It’s going to be bad”.  What is your dialogue?  Do you lean toward trust or fear?  What is your combination of both?   

In our reading, in the boat.  God was literally with them.  Jesus was IN the boat with them.  And yet, they were still afraid.  Fear is primal.  They still found it hard to have faith and to trust.  How can we expect to be perfect in the midst of the swamping boat, when it seems we are alone. Maybe we need to remember that we’re not alone.  

And it’s not just storms.  What are the smaller things, the less primal things, in your life that bring on fear?  Sometimes things that deserve a high sense of respect and some that are getting more attention of fear than they deserve, perhaps?  Faith and surrender is a practice.  Life is all about directions we can’t predict or control and that are scary.  Some call it “suffering”.  We have expectations and it can be unsettling to have those expectations shattered.  We want things to go as planned…it’s easier.  It’s safer.  But we don’t learn when the path is clear and easy.  Think about your biggest moments of growth.  It probably wasn’t when things when the way you expected them, or wished them, to.

Fear.  Then Worry.  I heard a quote once that worry is “MisUse of the Imagination”.  Why do we imagine the worst instead of the best?  Could you let go and take a breath and trust? If you could, it was probably work.  I taught yoga the week after the storm, you can see (and feel in your own body) the imprint of worry and fear.  We aren’t as stable in our poses.  It’s harder to quiet the breath.  It harder to settle into stillness or meditation.  Worry adds wind beneath the fires of fear.  They almost go hand in hand, supporting each other.  

What did you pray for?  Maybe you have a different word than Prayer.  What did you wish for?  Ask for?  We talked a few weeks ago about prayer: how it comes when we least expect it and sometimes it doesn’t feel like a prayer, but perhaps it is.  Whatever you called it: If your list was long, what did you pray for…first?  Probably prayed for what was most important in the moment.  The wellbeing of people and the critters.  The most important things.  We are grateful for the things, in the moment, that protect these most important things.  Shelter.  

Think back, in the midst of the storm it was these basic primal things that were most important. 

Notice as these things were checked off these things as OK, that the things that were lower down on the list rose up and, sometimes, they become just as important now as what was up there before.  Ok, people are good.  Animals are good.  The big, important-keep-us-safe-stuff.  Houses, cars, property.  These things rose up, sometimes taking a proper place of a must take care of and in some cases taking a stronger place than they deserve.  Maybe they rose up in big ways as a distraction root he weight of fear and worry of those big things before.  Distraction from the what-ifs.  

We can be most grateful for no injuries and no deaths from the wind storm.  Once that is aside, it’s shelter, transportation.  Then the lesser stuff.  Things that were unimportant in the midst of the storm are suddenly topping the list.  

Nothing wrong with this; things need to be dealt with.  What we’ve taken on, needs to be taken care of.  Favorite quote from a Teacher: it’s not a problem, if it’s not a problem.  But, let me give an example, sometimes it’s easier to see these things in others, vs ourselves.  I’m sure you’ve been through this…and can come up with your own examples: One person is still struggling with things at the top of the list (house/shelter) and someone else is struggling over their lesser needs (maybe the internet connection).  We begin to judge, especially when we’re in either a more comfortable place (have it all in place) or in a more uncomfortable place (anger again, displaced fear).  When do we do the latter and the former?  

This is not to judge our neighbors or ourselves.  This is to watch the shift as we get the basic needs, how the need for the lesser needs rise up.  Simply watch it.  Study it.  Does it rise up in an appropriate way?  Don’t let it become a problem, so that we are blinded to others needs.  And to also remember what was “most important”.  What was in our personal hierarchy of needs?  There is a gift in being reminded of what’s important to us.  

And to remember that we are different.  Something that we might dismiss might be someone else’s valid high importance.  

The internet, perhaps.  We might do just fine without it, but it is a source of connection and to those who have lived entire lives with it, it can be as important as….say, a phone connection.  Disconnect feeds fear and anxiety.  Many of us felt alone, isolated, and trapped—in a myriad of ways.  From the literal trapped by trees downed to isolated from the usual connections of being able to make a phone call or connect with technology.  This is one of the reasons I think a rebirth of community church space is so important.  To find healthy balance and connection…(but, as usual, another thought for another day)  

Spirituality is learning about ourselves.  How we connect.  To God and Grace.  To one another.  What did you pray for?  What were you grateful for?  How blessed do you feel now, in the aftermath?  What are the most important things?  When it’s all a bit more clear? 

Spiritus.  Spirit.  Wind.  Inspire.  Mighty Winds bring change and creation (genesis; all those great wind metaphors).  Gentle loving wind brings breath and life.  Creation; the breath of life.  The holy spirit.  

Wild winds challenge us.  The, for real, wild blowing winds like we felt last week and the metaphor winds on the journey of life (I’m sure we’ve all felt times when it feels like the challenged were/are relentless).  Witness the fear, even anger.  Maybe pain and grief.  If you feel it now, be ok with it.  Practice Faith, trust, and surrender.  

Calm winds.  Breath.  Why stillness and centering and meditation so important as a spiritual practice. If our personal winds aren’t still, we are more challenged in calming those fears. Less able to help one another…

Which brings me to…the spirit of Grace.  God working through us.  Acting as Jesus would, offering help, comfort, water, and shelter to one another. Jesus asks (in our Mark scripture): “Why are you so afraid?  Do you not have faith?”  Remember to pause, to stop and remember that you are not alone.  Once you remember how we are connected, then we can accept and trust.  Jesus is the calm in the storm.  

Now, we can offer help.  As our fears and worries are calmed, we can pay it forward.  

I thought of Robert Frost: good fences, make good neighbors.  I think a good storm reminds us of what we already have: good neighbors and good company.  We, each of us, are ministers to one another.  We, each of us, can be in our turn, the calm in the storm.  

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