Having Faith in a COVID-19 World

Each day, seemingly each hour, we receive news of escalating efforts by government leaders, both national and state, to contain and mitigate the effects of the coronavirus crisis. We worry about our health, livelihoods, savings and the well- being of loved ones and our community.

How does faith speak into the context of such a time?  Each of the world religions offer wisdom and sustenance for the challenges of real life, in real time.

Within my Christian tradition, I draw upon these words from John 20:19

On the evening of Easter, when the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of being arrested, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!’

Jesus entered into their fear and spoke a word of peace…a word of hope…a word of blessing.   So it is for us today. We too, caught up in our own worry, anxiousness, fear, are invited to open our hearts, minds and imagination to the infinite ways in which faith sustains, even as we seek to offer healing and hope to one another.

‘Peace be with you’.

Here’s few ideas for cultivating a faith life, regardless of which faith tradition you call home:

  • Find a prayer partner. Ask someone you are comfortable with, a person from your faith tradition , to keep you in their prayers. And, offer to do the same for that person. Be specific as to what you’d like them to keep in prayer. Once a week, via email, text or phone, let each other know how you’re doing. Allow your prayer life to evolve and grow.

  • Read a Scripture passage each day. Consider reading a Psalm a day or a chapter or two from the Gospel of Mark, or from a source of wisdom that resonates for you.

  • Lectio Divina (meditating on Scripture),  For Christians I suggest starting with 1 John 4: 7 – 21 (this also works with any sacred text and or, poetry). Once per day, select 3 or so verses. Read the same passage three times, interspersed with 5 minutes of silence. Focus on the gentle rhythm of your breath to help you relax into the silence. With each reading ask one question: 1) What word or phrase intrigues you; 2) what insight/wisdom do you hear; 3) what wisdom will you carry with you?

  • Take a mindful walk (in the woods, garden, neighborhood, beach). Walk in silence. Notice what interests you on your walk, notice what thoughts and feelings come to mind. Don’t judge, simply notice and give all this up to that great Source we call God/Creator/Spirit.

Each of these practices invites us to sense/hear/to drink from a deep reservoir of ancient spiritual wisdom, reminding us that we are not alone…that we are known, remembered, cherished.  A reminder that the uncertainty of any given moment, need not be the final word.

Do you believe this to be true?

“Peace be with you”.

May it be so.

 

 

 

Risking Everything

Life is full of risk.  This feels particularly true in our uncertain and chaotic time.

The nature of risk is to calculate the best course of action.  Sometimes the path forward is clear.  Other times uncertain.  Sometimes we have good options. Other times not.

We awaken at 3 a.m. working our worry beads as we seek to discern the best path forward, as we struggle to understand (and accept) what we can control and what we can’t.  The concerns we carry are legion: health issues, well-being of loved ones, concern for institutions and causes we hold dear.   We worry over the right path to take.

In the midst of my worry, I came across this poem by David Whyte.  It is a call to ‘risk ourselves for the world…to hazard ourselves for the right thing’.

WE ARE HERE

We are here essentially to risk ourselves in the world. We are a form of invitation to others and to otherness, we are meant to hazard ourselves for the right thing, for the right woman or the right man, for a son or a daughter, for the right work or for a gift given against all the odds. And in all this continual risking the most profound courage may be found in the simple willingness to allow ourselves to be happy along the way….

From ‘LONGING’ In CONSOLATIONS:
The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.
© 2015 David Whyte

The poem ends with this line ‘in all this continual risking the most profound courage may be found in the simple willingness to allow ourselves to be happy along the way….’

Uncertainty is a given.  The willingness to risk for a cause we believe in is our choice. So is the choice to be happy in the midst of the uncertainty.

For me as a person of faith my ‘happiness’ is rooted in the belief that God who is the source and author of love is with usWith us when we work our worry beads at 3 a.m..  With us when the path forward is uncertain.   With us when we risk for a  cause we believe in.

There are no guarantees in life.  We know this to be true.

But it is also true that in the midst of life’s uncertainty is the comfort in knowing that we journey not alone.  We look around and  find others to travel with, to work with, to risk alongside.

And for people of faith like me, we find strength in knowing that we journey not alone. A belief that the God who created heaven and earth is with us and goes before us, preparing the ground for that which is life-giving.

The theologian William Sloan Coffin offered this:

I love the recklessness of faith….first you leap and then you grow wings.

It takes courage to take a leap of faith.  William Sloan Coffin’s metaphor promises that wings will be provided when we need them the most.  When we feel vulnerable, anxious, uncertain.

None of us knows what the future holds but faith reminds us that we journey not alone.  And this graces us with moments of happiness along the way. Even in times of uncertainty and risk.

That’s good enough for me.

 

 

Living with Pain

I have several friends and people in my extended family who live with chronic pain. Pain that grabs you by the throat and takes your breath away. Pain that is so unrelenting that it can telescope your parameters as to what is possible, to the point that all one sees and knows is the pain. For some of us the pain is emotional for others it is physical. For some a combination of the two.

Richard Rohr the Franciscan monk and author writes that such pain can be the door to facing tough spiritual questions that we otherwise avoid. Questions such as: Is there really a God? If God is good and all powerful then why am I or the people I love suffering?

Such questions Rohr suggest arise when we are faced with difficulties and nothing is more challenging than chronic pain. I’ve known some people who have wrestled with such questions only to walk away from their faith. I’ve known others who have found meaning and strength in their spiritual life, giving them strength and hope.

In the classic book by Rabbi Harold Kushner ‘When Bad Things Happen to Good People’, Kushner reflects out of his own pain on the nature of God and the unfairness of life. He wrote following the death of his son Aaron who died in adolescence after a life long illness.

Kushner writes: “I’ve never received a good answer as to why God allows bad things to happen to good people. But I do know where God is when bad things happen.” For Kushner God showed up in the kindness of friends who didn’t give platitudes but simply listened. God showed up when meals were brought by neighbors and loving prayers were voiced by people he and his wife didn’t know. And, God showed up in a deep-seated awareness that he and his family including his son, were being carried through the most painful of times.

Can this awareness be proven, quantified or measured? No. But for Kushner this awareness of that loving presence he calls God, is a real as the death of his son.

For Kushner and so many others this awareness of not being alone is a source of hope. Hope opens something in the human heart. Like shutters slowly parting to admit a winter dawn, hope permits strands of light to make their way to us, even when we still stand in darkness; but hope also reveals a landscape beyond us into which we can live and move and have our being.

photo of candle

For those who follow the Christian calendar, December is the season of Advent when believers and seekers move from darkness towards light. December 16th is the beginning of Hanukkah in the Jewish calendar a festival of light in the midst of a dark time.

My prayer for all who journey with pain that ‘you be graced with moments of hope that remind you that you are not alone and that you are loved’. May this awareness illuminate our path.