Signs of Hope-May 14, 2020

05.13.20 | by MaryPat Potts

    Even though I will never be accused of being a “gardener,” I found this to be interesting. Starting with the beloved (for many) act of gardening, this excerpt , highlights how some ordinary things can be turned into prayer. You might enjoy trying something like this.  I’ve also included a prayer that might be helpful in our time of social distancing, to remind you that we all “belong” to God, and to one another, and in this way we continue to “Be Church” – the church that is “not missing, but deployed.”

    an excerpt from “Spiritual Wisdom in the Time of Covid-19” – Psychology Today, April 19, 2020 by Russell Silas Jones, Th.D, LCMHCS

    Drawn to the earth. A number of clients tell me they’re spending more time gardening this year. For some, it’s their first garden ever. It’s not just my clients, either. So many friends and neighbors are cutting back brush, planting flowers, and preparing beds for vegetables. (A couple down the road are putting in an extra-large garden this year to help feed their musician friends who aren’t getting to play and be paid.)

    When I ask my clients what this is about—how come they’ve upped their gardening game and what’s it meaning to them—initially they chalk it up to the stay-at-home order, the need to be outside, and the desire to do something constructive with their extra time. But I think there’s more going on here than just killing and filling time.

    Is there any denying that our collective awareness of vulnerability, uncertainty, and death is stronger than any of us can remember? When was the last time you remember reading daily updates on the numbers of people who have died globally, nationally, and locally? It’s not that these realities were absent from our lives before the coronavirus. They have always been with us and always will be. Life is suffering, says the Buddha. But many of the smaller dramas that occupy our attention in ordinary times are not available—baseball, I really miss you—and the light of pandemic and mortality reveals them as pale, thin substitutes for the story that really matters.

    Meanwhile, people are putting their hands in the dirt (from whence we came, says the book of Genesis) and investing in life. The temporary nature of our existence is on unprecedented display, and there is a need to connect with something enduring. The seasons. The cycle of life that was here before us and will be here after us. The way a seed gets buried, finds the soil around it warming, cracks open, and, if it is spared the contingencies of drought, frost, wind, hail, and disregard, sends forth roots, stalk, leaves, and fruit a hundred times larger than it ever was before its descent into darkness.

    For some people, I think, gardening might be a way of praying. Perhaps it’s a way of asking the earth, which is older and wiser than we, and whatever it is that sustains the earth, which is also older and wiser than we: Will you teach us to pray? And can we pray with you?

    Praying the news. And speaking of praying, some clients are teaching me that reading and watching the news can be an act of prayer and service. In my last post, I suggested that we’ll all be healthier and better able to serve others if we spare our nervous systems the battering and shredding they experience when we over-consume the news. Taking a cue from the 19 in COVID-19, I recommended limiting your news intake to 19 minutes a day. And all in all, I still think that’s good advice.

    But some of my clients are blazing a different trail. They find themselves coming to the news in a way that feels strangely spiritual. They're opening their laptops or turning on their TVs not in a compulsive-consumptive way to fill their brain-bellies with information, nor in a blood-thirsty way to stoke their anger and vent at whatever knucklehead isn’t doing enough to make things better. They are coming to the news to bear prayerful witness to suffering, and they might spend 19 minutes with a single story.

    These clients….are turning toward the pain of the world, not away from it. They say they read or watch with an open heart. They let themselves feel. They bear in their own bodies the burdens of others. Some offer prayers for those who are sick, those who have died, those who are grieving, and those serving on the frontlines of healthcare and grocery stores. Some hold in their hearts those living in poverty and experiencing an unequal impact of this crisis. Others practice tonglen, the Buddhist practice of breathing in the suffering of others and breathing out whatever might benefit them. They are transported to a deeper-place state where they sense a connection with and send their presence to the persons in the news.

    We Belong to Each Other.

    We Belong to You. The Bible says, “where two or three are gathered.”

    And many, in this moment, will gather no closer than six feet.

    The Bible says, “they were all gathered together in one place.”

    And we do not know when we will be together next.

    Triune God, you exist in eternal relationship.

    You are One and yet are three.

     In a time of isolation, draw us closer to this mystery.

    May it remind us of your truth:

    even in physical isolation, we are never truly alone.

     Your love links us together, making us a people.

    For the Bible also says:

    We belong to each other. We belong to you.

    Even now. Especially now. Amen.

    — Bryce Wiebe,

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