There is Hope in the Midst of a Storm

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

During stormy seasons (like this current pandemic), it can be difficult to maintain hope.

We can be so blinded by the storms in our lives – sickness, job loss, financial crisis, failing a class, losing a loved one, etc. – that we forget the power, love, and mercy of God and we forget the goodness that can be found in humanity.

When life seems to be spiraling out of control, those of us who believe in God should remember that God is in control and is stronger than our problems and that God will give us the strength we need to get through the storm.

For those who may not believe in God or a higher power (and those who do), perhaps comfort and strength can be found in the goodness of humanity – the acts of kindness that we see every day (people shopping for those who are vulnerable; employers who are providing pay to employees who are sheltered in place; restaurant owners who are providing meals for the homeless and economically disadvantaged; neighbors who are checking on neighbors and sharing meals and supplies;  athletes who are donating to food banks and childcare programs; healthcare heroes who  are on the front line; grocery store and retail workers and custodial and cleaning staff who continue to serve, etc.).

A friend of mine, who is a pastor in California, recently shared a message with his parishioners that I believe is worth repeating :

Never forget how far you’ve come.  Everything you have gotten through. All the times you have pushed on even when you felt you couldn’t. All the mornings you got out of bed no matter how hard it was. All the times you wanted to give up but you got through another day. Never forget how much strength you have learned and developed.

I would like to add: Never forget that we lift each other up – we make the world a better place – when we show our goodness.

My prayer is that rather than sinking deeper into fear or pain or chaos, we can all find enough hope to get us through the storm. I think we can find that hope by reaffirming our trust in God and in humanity.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Stay Socially Connected

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I think we got it wrong.

Rather than encouraging social distancing during this pandemic, maybe we should be encouraging keeping physical distance but keeping socially connected?

I can’t claim this idea as my own. It is the brainchild of veterans who work with Jay Glazer, a sportswriter and founder of Merging Vets & Athletes, which brings together ex-combat veterans and former athletes to battle “emotional distancing”.

I think they’re on to something because as we navigate through these times of isolation, we need to empower each other to hold onto hope. We can do that by reaching out to others by phone, email, text, social media and using apps like Skype, FaceTime, and House Party, to offer support to each other – by staying socially connected.

Because we are social beings, deprivation of social connection can create stress and illness, according to psychological research. And loneliness can make people feel more vulnerable and anxious.

Now is a good time to reach out to friends and family and connect with them to let them know how much you care about them.

Who will you connect with today to help her/him feel less alone and more loved?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

What’s the Plan?

Blog by Associate Carol Lemelin, OPA

In Jessamyn West’s Friendly Persuasion, Quaker farmer Jess Birdwell wonders — as he takes flowers to a funeral for an orphaned boy who had been beaten to death by his foster father — if this simple gesture is the whole reason he was born?  And, in doing so, has he fulfilled God’s plan for him?

That passage has stuck with me for years.  After all, how do we really know what God’s plan for each of us is? What makes us think there is one?

Oh, we can string events together and build a broad outline, but no one can guess what the truth is.

Wise parent that He is, God has given us all the tools and guidelines it takes to follow and then sets us free.   But it seems too scary out there on that limb all alone!

One of Jesus’ goals was to convince people that God is ever present and no one is actually alone. With Jesus as our companion, things become clearer – not less scary maybe – but clearer.

All the great adjectives, phrases and descriptions of good, honest, loving people apply to Jesus.  He was compassionate and tolerant, but he was not a fool as the moneychangers in the Temple discovered.

He drew people to him because he smiled and looked right at them, acknowledging their existence, which didn’t happen often to the poor. Still doesn’t, by the way. He went wherever he wanted and fit in wherever that was — because he was absolutely sure the love of the Father was with him.

We have both the love of the Father and the companionship of the Son.  We can’t worry about what will define our purpose; we must live our lives in Christ, making every encounter count for something. We have to learn to forgive ourselves when we mess up and trust in the loving grace of God to strengthen us to persevere.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

IMAGINE A PRAYER

 

Blog by Associate Michelle Gray

On my mantle there sits a group of black metal letters; standing about three inches high, they spell out “imagine.”

Not only are they there because imagine is one of my favorite words (like Louisa May Alcott, I like good strong words that mean something); they’re there to remind me to pray.

You see, I always have believed John Lennon’s song “Imagine” to be a kind of prayer. That might sound unconventional, even controversial, but bear with me.

The song begins:

Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people living life in peace… 

Lennon gets right to the crux of the things that divide us, the things that make us appear different from one another, the things that separate us into groups of us and them. But if there were no countries, there would be no borders, no need for walls, no need for wars, no us and them, only we, living life in peace.

And no religion too…” Here is where it gets controversial, but again, bear with me.

When we consider religion to be particular systems of faith and worship, we can see our differences come in the ways we worship, the books we hold as sacred, and how we view our relationship with God. What the major religions have in common is a sense of community and what we were taught as “The Golden Rule” — to treat others as we would have them treat us.

Focus on that and the differences among Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and others fade to the background. Again, there is no longer us and them, only we, living life in peace.

The next verse:

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people sharing all the world

The Bible is full of references to material possessions and the obstacles they can present to our relationship with God and others. We want, we want, we want, and we feel we have to keep up with the Kardashians. And once again we are separated; into the haves and the have nots. But in a world where there are no possessions, there would be no haves, no have nots, no us and no them, only we, sharing all the world.

And the chorus:

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope some day you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

And that is my prayer, that this is not just a dream, that some day, the world will be as one, in peace.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

CARRY EACH OTHER’S BURDENS

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

The past five days have been emotional.

It all started with the news of the death of my friend, Don Bishop, who also happened to serve my small township community as police chief for more than five years and as a police officer for more than three decades.

It was the first thing my husband shared with me when I walked through the door on Ash Wednesday evening. Then came the flurry of news reports  — former police chief found dead in his home, police are investigating the death, it appears to be the result of a gunshot wound, it appears to be the result of a single self-inflicted gunshot.

My reaction: Noooo! I can’t believe this! My beloved Bishop (as I called him) was one of the most jovial people that I have known. Yes – he had life struggles (who doesn’t?). Oh my God! – what about his wife and children?

Full stop: “Lord, help. Please embrace his wife and children in your loving arms. Be with them in their sorrow and grief. Give them the comfort, strength, and courage that they need. Help them to know that they are not alone.”

Next: a bit of calm washed over me. Then, the question arose:  Why?

Trying to answer that took some processing. I concluded that while some of my possible answers to that question made sense, I would never really know why – I chose to accept the fact that I may never know.

What I do know is that he saw no other way out of his situation, that he bore a burden that became too heavy for him to carry.

Do I wish that something could have been done to lighten his load? Yes.

I’m going to miss his smiling face,  his voice on the other end of the phone, his sense of humor, his no-nonsense approach, his determination to protect those he loved and cared about. I am going to miss his very being.

Lesson: Life can be hard. We can’t see a person’s inner suffering. It behooves us to show compassion and to be kind – it could help lighten someone’s load.

I have resolved to look for ways to help lighten the load of at least one person each day. Will you join me?

(Note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide is the tenth-biggest cause of death in the United States—deadlier than traffic accidents and homicide.)

Posted in Associate Blog, News