Who here has some sort of magical movie or tv special that just is guaranteed to bring a smile of Joy to your face. Whether it be for nostalgic purposes, because it brings memories of sweet times or because it is a total escape, either one is legitimate. I personally get a chill any time I see that first Harry Potter movie and Hagrid looks at young harry at simply states …” you’re a wizard harry!”
This week I feel we all could use a little magic. Just one word that will make this easier. One word that would make the air clean again, replace homes and charred forest in an instant, and allow families to return to their beloved communities. Unfortunately, there isn’t. For many people, for many of our friends and families and even some of us. It will be a while before things start to look normal again.
Even those of us who have lost nothing physically will still be affected by these fires for a while. Lines at the gas stations, the smoke and ash particles in the air. Maybe you need some dental work, like I did this week. Well the offices are short staffed and cannot do anything till who knows. Our beautiful country side will not look the same for a while and if you use the medical facilities in Santa Rosa the street will not look the same.
Some may have lost long time visiting sites. Places we went to get away or beloved parts of communities we visit. We all know someone who knows someone who has been affected. It is weird bit when the catastrophe is far off, another state or another country our hearts break and we do what we can. But sometimes when it is in our own back yard it becomes overwhelming.
There were four shelters in this area alone one minute we see a newspaper article that states here are a list of things needed the next day that list is no good they have too much. The red cross needs volunteers and yet their phones are backed up and messages are full. Our hearts are broken for our neighbors and yet, many of us feel powerless to do anything. So, for now, we can hold our communities in prayer.
But here in the midst of fire and devastation I do want to clearly state, God did not do this. God did not allow this to happen. I just don’t believe Gods works that way. And if you should hear of anyone saying so …ignore them.
Christopher Spatz writes of an experience with lymphoma;
“I never believed that God had bestowed this disease on me, nor did I believe it would be taken away because I asked. The prayers I offered were for courage, strength, tolerance, a fighting spirit, and confidence in making the best decisions. I refused to be fearful or despair. Rather, I made a choice to live one day at a time and expect to be part of the future. I was open to and cognizant of loving and being loved, and aware of the care and compassion extended to me from many sources. I was humbled by sincere expressions of support from coworkers, acquaintances on social media, and friends and family. I learned that I was placed on peoples’ prayers lists most of whom I didn’t know.”
Offering words of courage, offering strength when someone feels they have none, just being that calming presence to a friend or a loved one can help. Prayers, prayers bring comfort, prayers offer encouragement and hope to many people. As it was stated above just knowing he was on prayers lists brought comfort.
As the immediate, passionate response calms down there will be needs arising. The immediate response was overwhelming and great but this is not a thing that gets fixed quickly or easily. Just as there are stages to grief, there are stages to recovery. But the first thing anyone needs is compassion and empathy. But we cannot offer that unless we ourselves are in a good place.
We need to be present. Be present to yourself. In the midst of all this, things are changing and that change is frustrating, scary, sad, makes us angry, and can leave us hurt. The stress of just wondering if the fires may move in our direction at any given moment, being constantly on edge because we can smell fire. Just the aroma of fire, in our minds consciously or not, means danger and puts us on edge.
So, check in with yourself. What is your emotional state? How are you feeling? Have you been finding it hard to sleep? Are you more tense than usual? Maybe you find yourself with a short temper. This is all normal we are living in a very stress filled situation this week.
One thing we can all do is try to relieve some of that stress. Now it may be hard. It means taking time out to first acknowledge your emotional state. We have to pause and just see how we are feeling. Right now, I would encourage you Four times a day find a quiet place. I do not care if this is on a bench on the sidewalk, in your office or if you have to lock yourself in a bathroom for a few minutes. Find a quite space.
“Tune into your body. Your body often sends physical cues about how you’re feeling. Perhaps your shoulders are tense, you’re walking quicker than normal, or your heart is racing. Perhaps you’re sitting more slumped than normal, you are talking less in a meeting, or your muscles are heavy and tired. Notice these physical cues, and let them serve as a reminder to check in with yourself.”
Our bodies are fantastic things and they give us signs on just how we are feeling. When you pause just notice what you are physically feeling. Do not judge your body or its aspects, pay gentle loving attention. Do not dismiss anything as arbitrary. This is time to say what is that pain, what is that tension, oh my I actually have a headache.
“Take a deep breath. Take a slow and full breath, taking your time to notice your deep inhale and your deep exhale. This helps to slow down your mind, reduce distractions, and focus you in on your experience.”
This needs to be a moment just for a you and a deep breath helps to you pause and according to Harvard health “Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, this type of breathing slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure.”
This deep breath also centers you and establishes that this moment in time is just for you.
“Ask the question. Use the simple question, “How am I feeling?” Make it even more specific by tagging what you are doing at the moment to the end of question. For example, “How am I feeling as I’m walking down the hall?” “How am I feeling as I’m driving to work? “How am I feeling as I climb into bed?” Adding the action, you’re currently doing will help focus your brain on this moment.”
The key question is How. How am I feeling is a non-judgmental practice. You are not taking this time to pass judgement on yourself. This isn’t why am I feeling this way? Or I don’t have time for this emotion right now. This is about being honest with ourselves. How am I felling while I am in the midst of this day at this time and place?
You then answer
“Use descriptive words to capture how you feel in the moment. … the concept of using specific, tailored, and detailed words to describe your experience is incredibly important when doing emotional check-in.”
I am sure we all know descriptive words here are a few that we often may not think of:
Abandoned, Afraid, Agitated, Alarmed- fear is a natural response to the unknown but we can see that expressive words may help us discover better descriptors of our emotional state that we have not considered before.
Baffled, Betrayed, Bewildered, Blissful -confusion is a normal response to stressful situations but at this moment, when you pause, perhaps you have had some good news or fun and you are blissful. There can be joyous moments in the worst of times and acknowledging that and allow yourself to experience joy. Joy is perfectly Good.
“Repeat daily. Then twice daily, then three times daily. The more you practice, the easier this process will be, eventually becoming a habit.
Remember, the more we know what we’re feeling in a given moment, the more we can do something about it. Emotional awareness of what’s happening in the current moment provides an opportunity that we can do something to feel very different in the next moment.”
This simple practice is empowering. It allows you to not only be aware of your emotions but it is a way to make sure that your emotions are not controlling you in negative ways. This helps you to ease into where you are spiritually at any given moment.
Wait I thought we were talking about emotions but now you just said spiritually.
Like most everything healthy, emotional check ins take some time and effort at first. It may not feel natural or easy, and that’s ok. Pick an activity you do daily and connect your check in to that activity, keeping yourself accountable. You may want to set an alert on your phone or keep a sticky note nearby to serve as a reminder. Continue to practice. You will start to notice a difference, an increased level of awareness. A powerful opportunity to do something different.
Now you may be thinking why is our pastor giving us this touchy-feely tool. This practice some of you may be aware of as called mindfulness. “Mindfulness meditation is the practice of bringing gentle, accepting attention to present moment thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. While the immediate goal is not to change or improve what’s happening, the practice of bringing friendly awareness to our internal experience can decrease stress and improve coping with challenges.” And I would add connect us to God.
As we acknowledge our emotions and check in with ourselves, no matter what state we are in, we can always consciously acknowledge that God is here or even ask ourselves where is God in this and wait for an answer to come…or not, because sometime the answer is silence. Sometimes the answer doesn’t come. Sometimes the silence is the answer.
I want to leave you with a long quote from a great mystic whom I am fond of. Her most famous quote is on the cover of the bulletin. Julian of Norwich (c. 8 November 1342 – c. 1416) was an English anchoress and an important Christian mystic and theologian. Her Revelations of Divine Love, written around 1395, is the first book in the English language known to have been written by a woman. Julian was also known as a spiritual authority within her community, where she also served as a counsellor and advisor. I have always found great comfort in her words;
Thus, in our true Mother, Jesus, our life is grounded,
In his own foreseeing Wisdom from without beginning,
With the high Power of the Father
And the high supreme Goodness of the holy Spirit.
In the taking of our human nature He restores life to us, and His
blessed dying on the cross, he birthed us into endless life.
And from that time, and now, and until Doomsday,
He feeds us and helps us
Just as high matchless nature of motherhood wills
And as the natural need of childhood requires.
Fair and sweet is our heavenly Mother in the eyes of our soul;
Precious and loving are His grace-filled children in the eyes of our
With gentleness and humility and all fair virtues that are proper
To children in nature.
By nature the child does not despair the mother’s love;
By nature the child does not take responsibility upon itself;
By nature the child loves the mother
And each one the other.
These are the fair virtues (with all others that are like them) with
Which our heavenly Mother is Honored and pleased.
I recognize no state in this life
Greater in weakness,
And in lack of power and intelligence than our childhood,
Until the time that our grace-filled Mother has brought us up to our Father’s bliss.
And then truly be made known to us His meaning in these sweet
Words where Christ says:
“All shall be well;
And thou shalt see for they self that all manner of things
shall be well.”
In this quote from her long reflection she reassures us as children of our Heavenly Mother Jesus, we are in love. As Christians this reassurance even when we cannot comprehend all that is happening around us, even when there is despair, chaos confusion. In our hour of need to do something when it seems all is out of our hands. We have the Mother Jesus reassurance that we are loved and held in his loving grace..
“But Jesus (who in this vision informed me of all that I needed)
Answered by this word and said:
“…But all shall be well, and all shall be well,
And all manner of things shall be well.”
Jesus doesn’t promise us all will be perfect. Jesus doesn’t promise us all will be the same, Jesus doesn’t even offer us a quick fix. But Jesus offers us compassion, Jesus offers us rest, Jesus offers us grace and Jesus offers us reassurance that All shall be well. So when things are overwhelming and you do not have a moment to take inventory or paused and find a quiet space. I have always found comfort in her words and I often repeat them as a prayer…even out loud sometimes all shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Amen!
 J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (New York: Scholastic, 2013), 50.
 Christopher Spatz, “The Exhilirations of Lymphoma: A Year Int He Life,” Oneing an alternative Orthdoxy 5, no. 1: 79.
 Harvard Health, “Taske deep Breath,” Harvard university, May, 2009, accessed October 12, 2017, http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/take-a-deep-breath.
 Allison Niebes Davis, “The Power of Emotional Check Ins and 5 Steps to Help You Get Started,” Dr. Allison, 2017, accessed October 12, 2017, http://drallisonanswers.com/mindfulness/the-power-of-emotional-check-ins-and-5-steps-to-help-you-get-started.
 Northeastern University, Mindfulness and Spiritual Practices, 2012, accessed October 12, 2017, http://www.northeastern.edu/spirituallife/mindfulness-and-spiritual-practices/.
 Father John Julian, A Lesson of Love (New York: Walker and Company, 1998), 166.
 Ibid., 61.