A Prayer for Empathy from Isolation

A Prayer for Empathy from Isolation
 
By Tracy Mauro
March 24, 2020

A virus -
To our eyes unseen
Holds us under lock and key.
But still we find that we are free
Through purchased connectivity.
But what of those who aren’t so free?
Even in better times than these
Chronic illness, addiction, lack or disease
Makes isolation their constant reality.
Though we can't fully know their pain
Perhaps now we won't turn away
Now that we have had a little taste -
May this strange season birth new grace.

Intersecting Seasons

Yesterday…. these pictures dropped into my “Facebook Memories”. I took them during a bizarre spring snowstorm in Texas 10 years ago.

Perhaps the weather anomaly I photographed back then is a picture of what the world is going through right now in this pandemic-induced “winter” of illness, fear, and social isolation.

This has all hit us like a sudden spring snowstorm. The normal spring-song of the season suddenly muted by frozen tones of ice and snow.

Yet in this odd intersection – there is so much beauty. Some of the spring buds still shine as the press through the snow that so beautifully reflects the sun’s light.

And this same weekend in this most strange season…. This most beautiful poem begins making it’s way around – capturing well the absolute beauty that is still shining through this unsettlingly strange season we find our world in:

Lockdown by Brother Richard: 

Yes there is fear.

Yes there is isolation.

Yes there is panic buying.

Yes there is sickness.

Yes there is even death.

But,

They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise

You can hear the birds again.

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet

The sky is no longer thick with fumes

But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi

People are singing to each other

across the empty squares,

keeping their windows open

so that those who are alone

may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland

Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.

Today a young woman I know

is busy spreading fliers with her number

through the neighbourhood

So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples

are preparing to welcome

and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting

All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality

To how big we really are.

To how little control we really have.

To what really matters.

To Love.

So we pray and we remember that

Yes there is fear.

But there does not have to be hate.

Yes there is isolation.

But there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes there is panic buying.

But there does not have to be meanness.

Yes there is sickness.

But there does not have to be disease of the soul

Yes there is even death.

But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.

Today, breathe.

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic

The birds are singing again

The sky is clearing,

Spring is coming,

And we are always encompassed by Love.

Open the windows of your soul

And though you may not be able

to touch across the empty square,

Sing

Faith Mid-Pandemic: What does it look look like?

Being cautious and considerate of your community in no way indicates a lack of faith.

Case in point: A religious group in Korea insisted that their congregants press on and attend church functions regardless of common sense precautions or government restrictions. That same organization has now been identified as the epicenter of the spread of the thousands of cases of COVID-19 in their country including the tragic deaths of some their own members.

I am not saying it is wrong to still meet – particularly if your church has the facilities and capabilities to offer thorough disinfection before and every gathering and people are not packed in too closely together. But please don’t judge faith levels – even your own – according to whether or not you decide to hold or attend gatherings right now.

The Jesus who told us “In this world you would have trouble” would not have us proudly prance around as if we’re immune. Rather, our Maker would have us walk humbly and love deeply with sensitivity about the situation and dependence on HIM rather than rely on our own stubborn ability to “press on with business as usual no matter what”.

Perhaps the realization that we are not in control begets the greatest faith of all.

What if closed church doors prompt a remembrance that being the Church has nothing to do with a building? What if the Coronavirus Pandemic teaches us that God’s love extends way beyond just those who gather in buildings or have organized programs? Perhaps that is the good that will come out of this horrible virus. Didn’t someone say once that “all things work together for good?”

So let’s give each other in the faith community grace as we navigate how to be a faith community in the midst of this pandemic. I mean, it’s the first time in most of our lifetimes we’ve had to deal with anything like this. There’s no script here.

What’s the worst thing that could happen as far as faith communities go? We get even more controlling and “judgy”.

The choice of whether this empowers us to love more like our Maker or further impedes our ability to genuinely help those He died for is ours.

Lord, have mercy.

My First Lent

These days, I’m finding myself drawn to more ancient forms of Christian faith. Not that there’s anything wrong with today’s “mega churches” or “mega church wannabe’s” with their well-produced Sunday morning productions of feel good “face-melting” worship and practical advice for a better life (at least according to our Western culture’s version of success).

But some of today’s more popular “mainline” faith practices seem to either explain away the mysterious and difficult elements of life and faith or avoid talking about them all together.

So…. when I was a part of those types of faith communities – they weren’t so very much into the cycles of the ancient church calendar such as Ash Wednesday and Lent.

I mean, why would we want to focus on that 40-day season of hot parched desert and relentless temptation if the whole purpose of our faith is to use God to make our lives on earth pretty and prosperous?? Why not just wait to get all happy on Resurrection Sunday? (That happy stuff brings in bigger offerings, anyway).

But as wonderful as that human success-driven church culture can seem, there’s something exhausting and simply fake about trying to live as though God’s purpose is to bring glory to me and not the other way around.

So, I’m now a part of a small community of believers that meets in the middle of an old downtown area and for the first time in my life I took my ashes on last Wednesday and entered in to relating to Christ’s suffering through a season of lent.

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. But I’m finding this season to be authentic, rich, and freeing though difficult and somewhat anti-cultural.

The most beautiful thing to me about this practice is that it tells me that it’s ok to walk through periods of mystery and tension in life with ashes on your head and maybe even in your heart.

And, because I have a lot more time to journal and write since endless surfacing of Facebook and Instagram is one of the things I’ve set aside for this season, I was able to capture some of my thoughts in the little poem below:

I’m learning to rest in the tension of a human walking with God
instead of pretending I have it all figured out


It’s not always truth just because someone shouts it loud
and it may not be a lie just because it brings doubt

If somehow in attempts to walk this life out
I create space for authentic connection – maybe that’s what it’s all about

I likely won’t know answers until I breathe my last or hear a trumpet sound but until then may some of Christ’s mercy and justice in me be found

Why STILLNESS matters

Words like “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms‬ ‭46:10‬a) have always been fascinating to me.

But it has only recently that I have been getting a better understanding of the importance of being still.

You see, I have recently moved to a little apartment that overlooks a river. This river has been teaching me much about life, our Maker-God, and the importance of being still.

In the picture I took this morning, a part of the river is stirred and far from still because of storms moving into the area. Another part of the river is calmer – much more still. Rhetorical question: Which part of the river is more clearly reflecting the light?

Maker God, continue to teach me these lessons on how to be still so I can better reflect the light of Your life to help brighten and warm the cold dark places of our world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Why can’t we just live there?

Thin placesSo… the other evening I was “breaking bread” (actually it was sushi – but same concept) with a few friends from my faith community.

As we sipped our wine and enjoyed half-priced Sushi night, we began to talk about worship. One of my friends mentioned how very much she enjoyed participating in communion every week and that even watching the others in our congregation being served the Sacraments is such a Holy Moment.

Another friend chimed in that truly Holy Communion is one of those “thin places“. Of course, we all were immediately intrigued and asked him to explain more about “thin places”.

He explained how C.S. Lewis (one of my very favorite thinkers and writers) would write and speak of the thin places – where heaven and earth intermingle. I made the comment that I wish we could just live in that thin place – where not so much divides and keeps us from connecting to God and each other.

It’s just that I’m not always quite sure how to get there – much less stay there. I’ve experienced thin places throughout my life – from early childhood memories of my Mom and church pianist playing beautiful songs about the Blood of Jesus while communion was being served and wondering how wordless moments could be so powerful to breathtaking nature encounters when I’ve been absolutely certain that Maker painted a particular sunrise or sunset just for me.

But, even in the much-mystery that clouds our every day lives and deters us from entering those thin spaces – I will still seek to learn what an abiding life (see John 15) – that sweet communion with the Maker of our souls -truly looks like.