In the Interim: 3/27/20

terri-burnorAt midnight, Minnesota moves into another phase of our collective response to the pandemic. Most of the state, except for those providing critical services, are now expected to stay at home and avoid contact with others unless necessary.

Even if you’ve largely been doing this already, how does this shift feel? Is your heart heavier or lighter? Is there a layer of grief? Confusion? Are you relieved? Are you mad?

For me, these last two days have been filled with a sense of urgency to “take care of things.” That’s okay. I rolled with the waves between the necessary and the extraneous. Ok, that’s the more sanitized way of describing what happened. The reality was a bit more frantic. Still okay. Just not so poetic and much more like jarring potholes!

Today I woke up differently. My dreams last night reminded me of this familiar prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

We are in a moment when we must bless the imperfect. That’s a good mantra for life in general, but is particularly important in times of anxiety and fear and deep uncertainty. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 3/20/20

meg-rileyDear Friends,

Happy Equinox!

It’s a beautiful sunny day.   I’ve been “social distancing” for about 10 days now, as I know many of you have.  Taking the trash and recycling around the block to my trash cans today, I saw two people I never met walking their dog.  From 50 feet away, I yelled, “HELLO!  NICE TO SEE YOU!”  I realized that I’m beginning to get a little desperate for human contact!

Some of us are confined alone in spaces, some long for a moment of alone-ness in a house full of people and animals where we’re never alone.  All of us are struggling to land in this new normal, this new way of being, this new world.  And all of us have each other.  What a blessing that we don’t have to struggle alone! Continue reading →

In the Interim: 3/13/20

terri-burnorWe (in all the ways that we could mean we) are currently in a wild, messy, uncertain, confusing and scary time. The speed of change and the evolution of what we could or need to do is fierce and fast. While the care for our whole selves is always necessary, it feels especially heightened in this very moment of social distancing and potential isolation.

One of our beloved practices on Sunday mornings is to greet each other with hugs, handshakes and high fives. We want to be together. We want the subtle sensations that come with physical presence. Every hour, we learn about events and gatherings in our communities, schools, sporting venues, entertainment zones, and elsewhere are being canceled or postponed. We have to make difficult decisions about vacations, work travel, meals out, what we’re going to do if we’re all stuck at home. We may be worried about loved ones in care facilities and strangers in prisons or out on the streets.

We’re facing both sudden disappointment and deep concern for those most vulnerable. This whole situation is ridiculous and unfair and shedding light on what all is really, truly, ultimately at the heart of things. For that, I am grateful. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 3/6/2020

arif-mamdaniWisdom and Serenity

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Serenity Prayer recently:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Written by theologian and philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr and adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs, it is so commonplace in our culture today that it’s easy to pass it by without really taking it in, and so today, I’d like to invite us to exactly that – slow down and take it in. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 2/21/20

meg-rileyOne of my go-to books for resilience-building is Pema Chodron’s classic, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.  I picked it up years ago at a bookstore when it screamed at me, “Here’s the book you need right now!”  Over the years, I have gone back to it and found it a trusty friend.

Chodron is an American Buddhist nun.  Her other books have titles like, The Places That Scare You, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Practicing Peace in Times of War.  All useful books but this first one that I found (though not the first she wrote)  brings me back over and over.

Essentially, the book is full of practices and insight about how to have more compassion for ourselves.  Chodron writes:

“Learning how to be kind to ourselves, learning how to respect ourselves, is important.  The reason it’s important is that, fundamentally, when we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves we’re discovering.  We’re discovering the universe…To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.”

Self-awareness and compassion for ourselves is an essential piece of resilience. Resilience isn’t a badge to earn, a medal to be awarded, a state of being that we claim as our own.  Resilience is a daily practice of centering into our own selves, opening our eyes to those around us, and claiming our own place in the world. Continue reading →

In the Interim: 2/14/20

terri-burnorDuring story time in worship a few weeks ago, Jennifer Swick, our wonderful acting director of family ministries, taught us box breathing (or square breathing). This is a fantastic practice for children and adults because it really helps to calm down heightened anxiety, nervousness, over excitement, or meltdowns right there in the moment. And it’s so easy —just breathe and count. We can all do that!

As a refresher or for those who weren’t at church that day, here’s how it works. Exhale all the way out to get started. Then inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of four. Repeat as many times as you like, being mindful of any dizziness or shortness of breath. You can change the count number and even add hand motions, like Jennifer showed us (I bet she’ll give you a personal tutorial if you ask!). If you like visual queues, here’s a fun video with puffer fish to help keep count.

I love body-based practices, especially breath work. As Resma Menakem teaches us, “when you can settle your body, you are more likely to be calm, alert and fully present, no matter what is going on around you. A settled body enables you to harmonize and connect with other bodies around you, while encouraging those bodies to settle as well.” Continue reading →

In the Interim: 2/7/2020

arif-mamdaniRecently, someone gave The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World a big huge wholehearted recommendation, and even encouraged listening to it as an audiobook. In the midst of preparing to see the Ministerial Fellowship Committee in March, I haven’t felt like I had the luxury of reading anything that isn’t on the MFC reading list, but an audiobook sounded possible, and in the dreariness of this winter, I could sure use some joy.

So, with a free trial of Audible in hand, I downloaded the book and spent about 2 weeks listening to it in the car, at the gym, and sometimes in the shower. And now I’m giving it a big, huge, wholehearted recommendation to you! Continue reading →