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A is for adversity

My diary emptied everything I expected this week. And the coming weeks have also become empty. I feel like all parts of my life are like a puzzle that has been thrown into the air. I don't know where the parts will end up or when, and I wonder in a kind of panic that will eventually be lost.

When adversity occurs, a shock sets in. I know that, of course. I know that it will take some time to process what is happening to me, to people around me and to people far away. I know that the first step is to accept the situation and the naming helps us with that.

I have experienced adversity in different ways before, as we all have. I have found that it is not only important to name and accept what is happening, but also to know that "the name of the Lord is a strong tower" (Proverbs 18:10). God is the one I can call on; for "God is our refuge and strength, a very present aid in trouble" (Psalm 46: 1). I feel that not only will I fill my diary with help, but I will also ask God for help without knowing what the picture will look like when the parts land, but to trust in the name of the Lord.

B is for breathing

I realize that I sigh a lot. It tells me that I feel tired with no clear purpose. Like most of us, I am worried, insecure, no longer do my daily business as usual and have no rhythm. When I notice my breath, I can see how I feel.

When the disciples of Jesus were afraid, they locked themselves in a room and Jesus came and stood under them, breathed in and said, "Peace be with you." (John 20: 21-2).

Slow breathing helps us to calm down. I have found that slowing breathing can be a way of praying. Sometimes when I inhale and exhale I use a phrase like "breathe on me, breathe from God" or "be quiet, the saint is here for the presence of the Lord." Sometimes I imagine how my worries are exhaled and God's peace and love to be inhaled.

C is for calm before the storm?

I don't sleep as well as others I know, and that tells me that my peace is disturbed even though I'm pretty calm on the surface. I didn't buy panic, but I'm molested by teenagers who accidentally eat. I think of the stories my parents told about rationing, evacuation and war. That's why I'm worried about care and my older father. I feel the forced calm of someone who is used to providing solutions, answers and care and who is now in a world where the winds of news shake the boat of my life every day with a new limitation or fear. I feel that my calm is a calm before a storm, a calm that includes me and prepares me for what will come.

I also have another picture in my head – of Jesus standing in a boat with his arms outstretched, rain and wind coming in all directions and the waves lapping over the side. I know that he shouts "Peace, be quiet" and the storm subsides. but what inspires me is that he sleeps in the storm. He wakes up because his friends are scared and wake him up. And he takes care of it at the right time.

I realize that I may not have to force myself to calm down and prepare for a storm, but realize that both are now present, just like Christ. I feel invited by God to open myself to the peace of Christ. At 7:00 p.m. as we pray, I add words that will be used in night prayers: "Save us, Lord, when we wake up and protect us in our sleep so that we can watch Christ awake and sleep in peace."

D is for desert

A few years ago I spent some time alone in the desert. I went to the desert to withdraw from the world. I expected it to be bleak and deserted, and that was it. The territory was tough and survival was a physical and a psychological challenge. I felt the desert just didn't care. I knew that if I didn't pay attention to how much water I drink or my state of mind, I would become weak and panicked.

Now I'm not going anywhere, I'm locked up at home, and I'm not facing the vastness of miles of sandy beaches. but there are similarities. Streets are deserted; and I have to pay attention to washing my hands and I can’t do without worst-case scenarios and panic. What helped me in the desert was looking up and down. I hadn't expected the desert to be so beautiful, so spacious, and the colors so intense. The landscape attracted me and nourished me so that I could settle down, pray and find peace. Today I can see the boldness of yellow daffodils, sloping sunshine and a powder blue sky. Spring is just around the corner; Light bulbs burst with color; nothing will hold them back.

Jesus was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit. He fought, but found not only temptations, but also angels who served him. During the weeks when he was bound to his limits, he prayed and gradually his calling appeared.

I have my own things like you through which I can pray. I hope that I can also be nourished by the season, by the unexpected beauty of time and place.

E is for exercise

I've been out a day or two these days. I wouldn't call myself a runner. My kit, which mainly consists of hand-me-up articles by teenage children who are now far too cool for them, is by no means elegant. Going outside and increasing my heart rate for half an hour awakens my body and mind. It bases me on my humanity, allows me to express frustration and uses my energy to make me fitter and stronger. It seems necessary to take this opportunity to exercise. It's a way to get outside. I can almost train in my house.

Although I cannot go to church, I can pray at home. However, it is clear to me that I am not yet anchored in my prayer at this time. I am restless. My practice of silent prayer tells me that this is because I notice that my thoughts are jumping around. With a prayer book or audio, I'm easily distracted. Maybe I can learn from the times I go outside. Sometimes I go out and go, enjoy the sky, the trees, the sunshine: a receptive mode. Sometimes I go running. It is active and intense. and my focus dominates.

Maybe that's the way it is with prayer. I try to put aside the time when I am open and receptive, open to the candle flame of the light of God, open to a verse of the scripture that I read, or words from a written prayer. That kind of prayer can ground me in God. And I have put aside a time that focuses on the needs of the world, my need to pray, to stand up for those who are sick, fearful, and loved by me. This prayer awakens and preoccupies my spirit so that I can recognize my need for God and, as Jesus taught in the Beatitudes, I will be blessed (Matthew 5: 3).

F is for fasting

We gave up meat for Lent in our household; But we're running out of lenses, and I would feel safer and safer if I took care of my family if we had several portions of chili con carne in the freezer.

Fasting takes many forms: it is giving up something for a greater good, a spiritual benefit, such as solidarity; or deny yourself so that you may be able to give something to others through a charity. Fasting is relaxing – there are lives as those who now fast with gluten or cholesterol-soaked products can attest. Giving up meat is a contribution to saving the planet. Now I'm fasting from human contact so that lives can be saved. I can go shopping, but not shopping: I'm limited to two of everything.

The Israelites who made a pilgrimage to the Promised Land in the desert had to rely on manna. They had to trust that God would provide the manna every morning because when they tried to store it they found that it was lazy the next day.

A spiritual benefit of this current when going out is awareness of a connection with other people with whom I share my community and world, with people who have jobs that enable me to live now. People cannot live on bread alone, as Jesus found when fasting (Matthew 4: 4). Like those who traveled through the desert long ago, I learn to rely on God to take care of them. God, the source of all life. Give us our daily bread today.

G is for guilt and gratitude

I'm not saying I'm not to blame for anything – far from it. But I feel so guilty that it turns me inside and could close. I feel guilty that I live in a house with a garden and have space when others are locked up; that I am still paid when others have financial problems; that I'm healthy for the time being when others get sick. You can see that there are many "I" and therefore I am guilty of thinking that this is all about me. Then of course I feel really grateful for my daily bread, for everything that makes my life.

Time to go deeper, I think. It's too easy to personalize faith and guilt so much that I wallow in a little guilt just to get out of it without having the deeper recognition that I'm part of a world where structural injustice means that I do and others don't. The power I have gives me the responsibility to play my role.

Perhaps the most difficult thing is that I cannot save the world or even part of it: I can only play my role that remains at home. It is not very heroic. I can give some money from self-denial, which means that I can't buy my flat white (even with the discount of a storage cup). I can play my part and be thankful for what I have now by sharing what I can.

I want to give something out of gratitude – a healthier place from which I can do anything. Gratitude is a place in my heart that can heal, deepen my prayer and reach me. for it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

H is for home

I never wanted to be a hobbit, although the prospect of a second breakfast often appealed. The hairy feet scared me off, but I often admired the feeling of home, contentment and peace in everyday life – not least now.

Restricted to home sharpens in me where I am not at home in myself. I am thankful for a nice home and still restless, not at home, in peace. Part of it is that our world has been turned upside down with its massive impact on daily life. What I did at home and when I did it is now to be won; and I scurry back and forth between housework, work, family, and endless calls, thinking all the time that I should do something else, something more. Part of this, however, is that I am not at home in myself and, like everyone else, have weaknesses in these unusual times.

The hobbit Bilbo Baggins gave his memoirs the title There and Back Again. We'll look back, like he did, from the perspective of getting through; But now I know that I have to go on an inner journey and take steps to develop patience. First of all, I have to take steps to be at home in myself and to be at peace with who I am. It is the journey of spiritual growth. Jesus spoke of the many rooms in his father's house that were prepared for us, and that he is standing at our door, not hurrying away, ringing the bell, but knocking and calling so that we can hear, open the door and share a meal (Revelation 3.20).

So at home I'll try to be who I am and open my door to the one who draws me deeper into life, often only by resting myself in the presence of light.

I am for investment

So I want to look back on that time and tell the stories from the perspective of a pub lunch with friends from the future. But I don't know when this time ends and when I can look back. "How long?" as the psalmist says, but not to the prime minister. When is the halfway point, the turning point? How long, sir?

It seems to be time to invest, not to prepare myself for a new direction or limitation, but to be present now. So I found some seeds, found a pot, and maybe some lettuce grows. I'll even be there to pour it. I invest in the future and the present at the same time. I could even bake some cakes with a new recipe. I'm pretty good at taking a little time every day to do something nourishing, like reading a poem or noticing beauty. I invest in the present.

But I have an invitation to invest in the past. That surprises me. I know that there is always something to sort, photos and boxes, and I have been sitting there too easily. I feel an invitation to remember events in my life that, when I sort out photos or closets, are right in front of me. I feel the need to remember, to remember and to remodel – prayerfully taking the time to feel what I was doing back then.

A lot of things will make me smile and increase my gratitude, and it will be good to pause and be fed. Some trips back in time will take me there again – in sadness because I feel belittled – and the fear of a diminution is why I didn't go there. But I will feel open to spending some time in the Valley of Shadow of Death and Trouble. Refreshment is the path of truth that will also give life. If I go this way, goodness and mercy will follow me every day of my life and I will live in the house of the Lord (Psalm 23: 6).

J is for juggling

I no longer have juggling balls. The children have outgrown them. I had to make do with clementines unsuccessfully. As a competent multitasker (if I say it myself), I drop the clementines and they cause a mushy mess in my mind and heart. Health and hygiene – why are they always sitting on the kitchen table? Housework and Prayer – I completely forgot to light my candle at 7 p.m. last night. Stay in touch and work – I'm sure my dear colleagues are as fed up with my face on a screen as I am because I have to see their face.

Before I really drop my juggling balls, I have to put some of them down. I don't have to try to be a house goddess or super mom. I am not too important to take some time off from work at home. There don't have to be so many balls in the air. I can choose to catch one, two or ten and lay them down before they fall and break something. We are all under pressure. Stress takes up a lot of energy. Simplification is required, don't spin around, try to feel essential and important. I am these things, but in such uncertainty I think I'm looking for them in the wrong places.

Which balls do I want to keep? How many can i hold In the desert, the Israelites received a commandment and a promise that I often return to when I am overwhelmed: “Choose life so that you and your descendants can live, love, obey and hold on to the Lord your God Life for you and length of days ”(Deuteronomy 30: 19-20).

I think it's time for me to write down everything I need to do now on a few little pieces of paper. If I peel a clementine, I will put some under the words "choose life" (the stay stays there of course), some under "next month", and others can be recycled for the time being or, if I remember tonight, placed by one Candle to be offered to God.

K is for kettles

It is not easy for me to know which day is today. This happens on vacation or during a phase of illness, but it is different. The fact that the clocks have changed and it gets easier makes it even more difficult because I also have less control over the time of day.

I have a fancy kettle that my daughter bought us for Christmas. It has a 90º as well as a 100º setting that I can choose depending on whether I am making coffee or tea. The “ritual for preparing a drink” is therefore a bit more complicated this year, but my coffee tastes better. I enjoyed the slowdown that the new kettle has brought although it doesn't meet the standards of a Japanese tea ceremony.

Now I'm never home alone and the kitchen always seems to be a mess. Cooking the kettle for a cup ritual has expanded to take my mug and find a place to sit and rest: the lounge, the garden, a windowsill. The psalmist boasts of praising God seven times a day (Psalm 119.164). I don't interrupt my day with prayer like nuns and monks, and I don't want the clock to rule my life. I can use my kettle to remind myself to take the time to be thankful for something that I have enjoyed or done well, to pray for someone. I can sip and pause, catch up with myself and remember the goodness of God.

L is laughing

And the Lord said to Lazarus: Lazarus, come out! Lazarus finished fifth and won a toaster.

A few months after the Manchester Arena bombing, I was invited by their health chaplains to talk about resilience – to help them in a small way to personally find a sense of what was going on while they were around them cared for others. There was also a salmon workshop that I went to. I had such a good laugh; Laughter helps us in difficult times. When we laugh, we live physically and emotionally in the present and open our lungs and heart. Laughter distracts our thoughts from the past and the future, perhaps only for a short time. Laughter is contagious, relaxing, shared, good for you.

In the last week of Jesus' life he went to dinner with his friends Maria, Martha and Lazarus. In the Gospels we often find that Jesus eats and drinks, takes time out, tells stories, relaxes and is in the present. Jesus spent time with Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. Despite the fear and the danger, he was able to share the friendship, and I assume that there was laughter, as is generally the case in such a meeting. There might even have been toast. Take the time to laugh amidst everything else.

M is for muscle

My mother always told me that she had to sit down because her legs killed her. My muscles often hurt nowadays when I have walked or walked a long way. Part of the reason is that I didn't warm up as I should have. Partly because I trained my muscles harder than they are used to.

My daughter, now a very new doctor, tells me that my legs hurt because movement damages the muscle fibers slightly, which then send signals to other cells that come and repair them. When you train the muscles against gravity, you carry weight, exercise, make your body more aware, and improve your balance. If you don't go on like this, your muscle will get fat.

I feel like I am carrying a weight that we are all at this time. I have to put energy into going on. The quality of resilience is often compared to a muscle. You need the pressure of adversity to become resilient, just as you need gravity for muscle strength. And like in sports, you don't get on a plateau: to become stronger, you have to continue the exercise, endure, continue with compassion, grow in wisdom.

Words that I regularly say as a priest and that always move me are from Jesus, “who took bread and thanked you on the night he was betrayed; he broke it and gave it. . . ”I prayed these words in joy and sadness, in sadness and at the end of my strength and I encountered again the touch of Christ, who under the greatest pressure of betrayal and impending death with a fearful and painful heart could be thankful and give yourself to others there.

In such circumstances, giving was another aspect of a life in which healing was accomplished, work was done for the poor, and people knew how to rest, pray, and let go in God. I will continue to practice for myself to continue as patiently and graciously as possible, to train the muscles of my mind even when they hurt, and to turn to God to bring about healing and strength.

N stands for no

A wise friend told me when I was a new mother that there must be a very good reason to say “no” to a toddler. I think that also applies to teenagers. "No" is a very powerful word. I find that when a toddler uses it, he expresses his choice, his freedom of choice and his personality. As an adult, I find it difficult to say "No", especially when there are many requirements, mostly all good reasons. When I do it, it's liberating. In difficult times, when I am at the end of what I can do mentally, physically or emotionally, the No draws the boundaries around me. It protects me, the core of who I am and have to be to live with integrity.

Viktor Frankl, an Auschwitz survivor who was treated like a brutal animal in the concentration camp, wrote about his refusal to accept this definition by holding on to his belief in his humanity, his memories of being loved. He refused to consent, refused to be an object, although he couldn't change what happened to him.

Jesus stood before those who wrongly accused him and remained silent: a powerful way of saying no in the face of the threat. He used his energy and freedom of choice sparingly. In his silence, he said "No" to a meaningless self-justification in a kangaroo court. When he spoke of the cross, it was to trust his loved ones – his mother and his student John – to each other and to cry out to God.

These days, with little strength to change our circumstances, we can fully live as our own person and use the agency we need to do to change the world: love and pray.

O is for It is fine not to be fine

I have tried to strike a balance between a responsible citizen who is aware of the problems of our world and the fact that I am so overwhelmed with bad news and fatalities that my hope is undermined. Although I want to limit the time I listen to messages or watch a screen and give myself time to open up to what is life-giving, there are times when it is just too sad or when I am angry and angry. I've learned that it's okay not to be okay. In fact, it's the sensible, natural, and compassionate response to what's going on to be out of order.

However, it can be difficult to say. A judgment must be made about what and how much you reveal about yourself and who. Society seems to say that one should always be happy and that it is a sign of weakness to be sad or to show sadness. Being human includes the full range of emotional reactions. To be resilient, you need to acknowledge what you have to deal with and what is threatening you as a first step to face it and grow through experience.

I am reminded of the prophet Elijah. He was able to rely on God, but was otherwise quite self-sufficient and successful. He had challenged the false prophets of Baal, won the competition and then had to flee the evil Queen Jezebel. But then he was wrong. When he spoke in the desert, he feared for his life, felt that his life was worthless and wanted to die. He slept exhausted and an angel visited him, fed him and let him sleep (1 Kings 19).

Since Elijah was not used to standing on his back, he was very interested in telling God about all the good things he had done and how hard life was for him. God's answer was to give him some time that he had safely hidden in a cave and to teach him to honor the silence. Elijah was too enthusiastic and sought God in the drama of earthquakes, wind and fire. It took him a while to realize that God could be found in a silence from which wisdom could arise. For Elijah, this meant winning over a new political leader and someone, Elisha, to train him and eventually take him over.

It's okay to be out of order, even if you may not be used to acknowledging the feeling. Sleep, food, some cave time and coping with the difficult, not in the drama, but in calm silence, are necessary steps to honor where you are. You may find support from one or two angels and later knowledge that brings wisdom, purpose, and future.

P stands for Pattern

I've noticed, as I normally do when I'm alone for a long time, that my thoughts keep chatting even when I don't have anyone to talk to. Chattering wouldn't be that bad, but it's the rumination that pulls me down: the repeating pattern that goes on and on and never ends and I know it undermines good mental health. I could repeat talks. I could justify or blame myself.

Distraction is a good technique and most of us, I expect, distract from unproductive thought processes before they ever show up – by filling our ears and eyes with something else: radio, television, social media. But to be alone more often and without much hustle and bustle of normal life – that is more difficult. Thoughts begin before I realize it, and once they start, I feel empty inside when I push them aside. I know I have to face them and deny them their power over me.

The desert mothers and fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries were familiar with patterns of thought that prevented people from concentrating on what is true, beautiful, loving, and good. They called them impure thoughts – thoughts that did not lead to wholeness, but to fragmentation. Abba Poemen quoted from the prophet Isaiah (10:15) and said: “Is the ax useless without anyone cutting it? If you don't use these thoughts, they will also be ineffective. "

We have to stop the negative patterns of our thinking and cut them off before they take hold. Perhaps the most difficult part of turning away from negatively repeating thought patterns is the lurking feeling that they might be true. Worries, a feeling of shame, fear for yourself and loved ones – these are real. These can be offered to God, who is left at the foot of the cross every morning or evening by lighting a candle or pausing on a daily walk at locations on your route to offer a situation to God.

Like the pattern of a dress or wallpaper, you can focus on the bright and rich colors of the pattern. A prayer pattern does this. When I notice the dull patterns that don't take me anywhere, I find that a verse from a hymn or the Bible can remove a negative spiral and redirect me. Right now I repeat: "The unshakable love of the Lord never ends, his mercy never ends" (Lamentations 3.22). I know a sung version that I used to wash my hands properly and it's stuck.

This seems to be a time for me to form new patterns of daily life and also to notice old unproductive thought patterns. Note, offer to God what cannot be easily held, and choose some colorful shapes and threads to create a new and refreshing pattern for your spirit.

Q is for quiet time

I went to school when I was a teenager. One of the main features of the morning routine were the bells to wake us up and then for a quiet time. Die ruhige Zeit dauerte zehn Minuten von 7.20 Uhr bis zur Frühstücksglocke. Am Abend war die ruhige Zeit die zehn Minuten, bevor das Licht ausging.

Ich glaube nicht, dass es das Ritual war, das mir entweder einen Gebetsrhythmus oder das Beten beigebracht hat. Da wir auf unseren Betten sitzen mussten, war das, was wir tun konnten, begrenzt, aber ich erinnere mich, dass ich gelernt habe, wie ich meine eigenen Haare, die französischen Zöpfe anderer Leute flechten und meine Haare zu einem Brötchen zusammenlegen kann. Dies war eine nützliche Fähigkeit; und tatsächlich habe ich jetzt darüber nachgedacht, etwas mit meinen Fingern zu tun, beruhigt mich, obwohl es Jahre her ist, seit ich lange Haare zum Bürsten hatte. Römisch-katholische Freunde könnten über den Umgang mit Rosenkranzperlen und methodistische Freunde über Zeitvertreibe wie Stricken sprechen, die Teil einer ruhigen Zeit im Gebet sind.

Selbst wenn wir ruhiger als gewöhnlich sind, obwohl wir vielleicht weniger einsam sind, brauchen wir immer noch Ruhe und den Frieden und Trost, den es bringt. Es war bekannt, dass Jesus aufstand und ging, um einen Ort zu finden, an dem er allein sein und beten konnte, denn bald würde jemand nach ihm suchen (Markus 1,35).

Die körperliche Bewegung des Gehens kann eine gute Vorbereitung sein, um die Seele zu beruhigen, dann zu sitzen und nach oben und außen zu schauen. Die Beruhigung erfordert normalerweise ein wenig Anstrengung und Rhythmus, um den Körper zu beruhigen und die Seele zu ermutigen. Sie floppen nicht, werden aber zu Hause in Ruhe erneuert.

Der Psalmist verglich das Ausruhen in Gott mit der Erfahrung einer stillenden Mutter und eines stillenden Kindes: „Ich habe meine Seele beruhigt und beruhigt wie ein entwöhntes Kind mit seiner Mutter; Meine Seele ist wie das entwöhnte Kind, das bei mir ist “(Psalm 131,2). Ich habe gelernt, meine Gebete als Kind auf meinem Bett in meinem eigenen Raum zu sprechen. Hier fütterte ich auch meine Babys, die von Kissen gestützt wurden.

In diesen ungewöhnlichen Zeiten, in denen ich nicht in die Kirche gehen kann, bin ich offen dafür, mich zu Hause zu beruhigen und meinen Frieden zu vergrößern und auf neue und alte Weise in Gott zu ruhen, mit Kissen, Wanderschuhen oder einer Haarbürste .

R steht für Auferstehung

Bei Resilienz geht es darum, Widrigkeiten gut und stärker zu meistern, sodass Sie im Rückblick Wachstum sehen und sogar schwierige Zeiten für das schätzen können, was sie Ihnen gebracht haben.

Auf diese Weise kann ich einige der Schwierigkeiten meines Lebens erkennen. Im Moment bin ich, wie du und die ganze Welt, mitten in etwas – vielleicht nicht so weit in der Mitte. Ich wünschte, ich wäre es, aber ich bin nicht in der Lage, zurückzublicken, alles ist vorbei. Resilienz bedeutet nicht, unbesiegbar zu sein und meine Zähne zusammenzubeißen, sondern das einzurichten, was ich brauche, um damit fertig zu werden, und herauszufinden, dass ich mein Leben wieder aufbauen kann. Mehr als ein Gummiball, der zurückspringt und seine Form wiedererlangt, kommt eine belastbare Person klüger und mitfühlender durch. Sie können nicht zu dem zurückkehren, was normal war: Sie gehen immer weiter, reifer oder auf andere Weise vermindert.

Ein leeres Kreuz oder ein Kreuz aus Edelmetall und Juwelen oder bunt weist auf die Auferstehung Jesu hin. Jesus ist durch den Tod zu neuem Leben gekommen. Auferstehung geht mit der Erinnerung an die schrecklichen Dinge auf eine neue Art und Weise einher, eine Art und Weise, die vergeben kann, eine Art und Weise, die offen für Versöhnung ist. Es geht mit Freiheit und neuem Leben. Aber wir sind noch nicht da. Ich bin immer noch eingesperrt, getrennt und leide als Teil einer leidenden Welt. Obwohl es Ostern ist, scheint Karfreitag angemessener. In dieser Pandemie gibt es noch mehr zu ertragen.

Ein schönes Kreuz, wie bunt oder kostbar es auch sein mag, ist immer noch ein Kreuz: eine Methode der Folter und Hinrichtung. Aber es erklärt, dass Tod und Zerstörung nicht das letzte Wort haben. Licht und Liebe absorbieren, heilen und überwinden. Die Textur des menschlichen Lebens besteht aus Licht und Dunkelheit; beide sind immer präsent. Der auferstandene Jesus wird an seinen Wunden erkannt.

Ich kämpfe, weil ich wissen will, wann dies vorbei sein wird, wann ich wieder normal werden kann. Aber es gibt kein Zurück vom Kreuz. Der Weg, den Jesus uns offenbart hat, ist lebensspendend, aber er macht uns verletzlich. Er vertraute darauf, dass Gott ihn durchbringen würde, obwohl er nicht wusste wie: „Dein Wille gehört mir nicht“ (Lukas 22,42) und „In deine Hände empfehle ich meinen Geist“ (Lukas 23,46).

Manchmal müssen wir loslassen, unsere Abwehrkräfte abbauen und anerkennen, dass wir nicht wissen, was als nächstes kommt oder wie etwas Gutes jetzt kommen könnte. Dies ist eine dieser Zeiten: heute, diese Woche und andere Wochen. Wir könnten schreien oder stampfen oder weinen. The low points are often the ones at which God can work in us most easily: the points of realising that we are not in control, but that the God who can raise the dead holds us, and will bring us to life again. Let go and trust.

S is for Support

I loved the bit in Thunderbirds when Lady Penelope removed the underwire from her bra, so that her manservant Parker could pick a lock. Bras are not meant to be useful, though: they are meant to be supportive. A bra should be comfortable, it should lift and separate, like a conversation where you have sought to give support and realise that you have also received support.

By being separate, I mean being able to give of oneself, not trying to do what we cannot, such as carry someone else’s burdens. We can lift another’s spirits, choose what we can give (daily, weekly), what we can’t give, and, very importantly, be reliable. These things enable us to maintain a healthy separation and support others effectively.

So, may I suggest that you seek to be like a good bra in the conversations that you have? There’s always a bit of an issue about how to put on a bra, the fastening generally being behind your back. Beginnings matter. I know that an answer to the question “How are you?” sets a tone, and, if I am careless, it can have me plunging into unhelpful whinging, or being buttoned up, revealing nothing.

Shape is important: paying attention to the shape of a conversation supports someone having a hard time. I know that conversations which lift me when I am low are those where someone has taken the trouble to tell me something about their life, or ask me a question which expands my horizon, helping me to envisage something beautiful. When someone acknowledges in words what’s hard for me, without minimising or drawing too much attention to my vulnerability, I feel supported.

Changes in life, such as pregnancy or surgery, require a re-engagement with the dreaded cold tape-measure and scrutiny of early teenage years. We do need to stop seeking support where it can no longer be found, and to seek what or who can give us care and confidence.

And then there is cup size and the bewildering choice of fabric and style. I do not want to be trivial, but although the Bible does not mention bras, there is much about accepting ourselves as created and loved by God. Jesus speaks of the cup of suffering (Matthew 26.39), the Psalmist of a cup which runs over with joy (Psalm 23.5). In every aspect of life, knowing that God is with us and being supported by others makes it possible to live well. Make that call.

T is for Tortoise

I am someone who has usually done a great deal before breakfast: the washing will be in the machine or on the line, the dishwasher unpacked. This habit comes, in part, from years of needing to get children up and out before I could start work. Now that spring is here, the tortoise, out of hibernation, needs to be fed and watered every morning. This pet, you understand, isn’t mine. The child the tortoise belongs to is not yet in a position to accommodate it. I was told that this would happen by others wiser than me, and I heeded the advice, agreeing to a low-maintenance tortoise.

And Nettle, for that is her name, shows me every morning that, even before nibbling that yellow flower, she needs to be in the sunshine. No basking at first, just being there, cold and still. After the night, Nettle, having been out of the sunlight, can do nothing. She may be low-maintenance, but being in the sun is essential and has to come first. After that, she races around, really (remember that tortoise and hare fable?), eats, basks, and sleeps.

Nettle reminds me that it is not doing things before breakfast that is the issue; it is doing anything at all if I haven’t placed myself in the light and presence of God — not just to acknowledge my creatureliness before the creator, but to be warmed and energised.

It need only be a pause, a glance, a sentence — spoken or sung. Then I act out of the gift of life, connected to God, not deluded that I can live self-sufficiently. Jesus described himself as the vine and his disciples as the branches (John 15.5). Abide is what he asks of his followers: abide in him, in his presence, because, apart from the vine, the branches cannot live, cannot be fruitful. They wither and die, or, because they are useless, get lopped off.

Prayer, being in the presence of God, has been expanding for me. I have noticed the life around me; I have needed to put myself in the presence of beauty, stillness, and colour, and have fewer words. I need to join Nettle in just being in the light, before doing anything else.

U is for Umbrella

I’m hardly going out, of course, in this lockdown. When I do, because I have to restrict my normal interactions and keep distance, I feel unsure, disturbed. At worst, I feel shunned. By concentrating on not getting physically close to anyone, I know that I protect others and myself. But I feel I need another kind of protection — not a mask, but some inner truth or wisdom which reaffirms my humanity: one that can recognise the utter unnaturalness of separation, and soothe my heartache when I go for a walk and have to cross over to the other side of the road because I see another human being.

Spring usually has me carrying an umbrella to dodge getting soaked by the unpredictability of April showers. I have to work hard not to break, lose, or forget my umbrella; so I either have one which is distinctive and big, so as not to lose it, or one that I can fold up and carry in my bag, so as not to forget it. When I put my umbrella up, it covers me, shelters me, and keeps me dry. As I child, I loved looking up through the colours, holding my mother’s hand. Now I’m always surprised at how intimate it seems to share an umbrella with someone else.

The Ancient Egyptians and the Romans used umbrellas; the word comes from the Latin and means “a little shadow”. For them, umbrellas provided protection from the sun rather than the rain. A parasol and an umbrella are, for the most part, the same thing.

The Psalmist describes God as being the shade which protects us from sunstroke. At the beginning of Psalm 121, the writer encourages us to lift our eyes to the hills and look to God for help. At the end of the psalm, the writer tells us: “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in, for this time on and forevermore” (Psalm 121.8).

So, I have begun to think that the protection that I need to remember in my going out and coming in is the inner assurance of the dignity of my humanity, created by God. Like a long black umbrella that doubles as a walking stick and goes nicely with a bowler hat, God, as my protector, provides strength on which to lean and confidence to venture out into the outside world. Just as an umbrella enables me to look up — to the hills to God — and also see that there is path ahead, I can recognise that, like a shower, this time will pass.

I cannot now offer shelter to others under an umbrella; but I can, by my actions, extend protection to those who are out when I am, and, by my prayers, ask God to watch over those who stay in. And I will choose the colours and shape of my inner umbrella to reflect who I am: a human being, made in the image of God.

V is for Voice

I am not using my voice as I usually do. It’s more often transmitted through some device, and it feels strained, dry, odd. Using one ear on the phone so often makes listening to other people’s voices unbalanced, although it is lovely to hear the voices of people I know well, and it takes me nearer to feeling their presence. I remember when I first heard my recorded voice and couldn’t believe that it was me. Hearing me as others hear me still makes me wince and realise how far I must have to go in being less hung up on externals and accepting myself as I am.

In these days, I am wondering what I have discovered about myself that is more my true self than the way I was living before. We speak about finding our voice to describe times when we are able to express our own opinions or tell our own story. Life isn’t balanced now, but I am finding a voice within me which wants to add new tunes to the song book of my life. Some are definitely tunes, without all the words that so often filled my days; some are songs of thankfulness, praise, lament. I realise that I must feel more free to use my voice and express myself, because I notice that I have begun to sing, on my own, without accompaniment.

Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd who knows each of his sheep. They recognise him, he says, because they know his voice and listen for it; because he provides for them and leads them (John 10.14). In these days, without the noise of traffic and much else, listening out for what and who calls us forward, as well as listening to our deepest selves, will take us forward, so that we might live more fully (John 10.10).

W is for Weary

Monotony, every day and week being the same and with no clear sense of when it will end, leaves me weary. Even though there’s much I should and even want to do, I can’t be bothered with it all. I find my strength is sapped, and I feel too tired to endure. I could just lie down or flop on a sofa. But my weariness isn’t assuaged by collapsing into bed. I have been duped into thinking that rest is having nothing to do, and doing nothing is something I don’t find restful. I need the kind of rest which renews and recharges me.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11.28). Many burdens come from external sources and worries. I have to sift these and lay many down. I know I also need God’s grace to free me from the burdens I place upon myself, even though I notice they bring no good. I get weary of the inner drivers of my mind: thoughts that push me to believe that, if something needs doing, it should be me, or, if I said that I’d do something, I shouldn’t rest until I have.

The biblical principal of sabbath time provides for rest and recreation. Sabbath means stop, and I know that there are times I must just stop. I can stop, recognise that I need rest, and it can even create the space and opportunity for others to step in. Stopping is an essential first step to rest. Being in the company of those who accept and love me eases my weariness, helps me feel safe and relaxed.

Jesus promises rest, the kind of acceptance and care that connects us to our humanity. We need constantly to be recreated, connect to beauty, nature, love. Noticing our weariness and then stopping for a while, or a day, enables us to seek the source of our life and find rest.

X is for X-ray

I think that it is my posh shoes which I am missing most not wearing, being in all the time. I have stopped wearing makeup, on the whole, even for calls on which I can be seen; and as for my hair. . . My attention, more than ever, is focused inward, on the effects on me of what the day brings, what I engage in, what enters my world. I can see or hear in others, too, the effects of anxiety and frustration as it emerges from under the surface.

We are sent to have an X-ray to look inside, beneath the surface of our bodies at what might be broken or going wrong in some other way. Something might not look right, or we might be in pain, and the X-rays, able to pass through our bodies, reveal the dense bones as white, and softer tissues as shades of grey. A skilled professional will interpret what is seen, and a doctor will treat. Commonly, for a break, a limb is put in some sort of cast to keep it still and aligned, to aid the natural healing of the body.

When the prophet Samuel was looking for a king to rule the people, God told him not to focus on the external appearance or height, for “the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16.7).

When God looks at us, it isn’t to see what is wrong with us (though we might bring our brokenness and the pain of the world to God). God looked at the heart of the youngest son of Jesse, David, and saw potential and possibility in this person who showed loyalty and love, courage and care.

Too often, when I look under the surface of myself or of another, my approach is to analyse or judge. God, the great physician, looks on my heart and the potential in me. God sees the brokenness in order to heal. Just now, the world and I are provided with stillness for a realignment. Let us look beneath the surface and set our lives and limbs, so that healing will come.

Y is for Yearning

After weeks of being in, there are some things that I miss, like sitting round a table with friends or colleagues, and some that I don’t miss, like traffic jams. I am conscious of another, deeper sort of missing: a sustained and tender longing or yearning. It is quite specific — for people I love and haven’t seen for too long, or may even never see again. And it is a more general but focused yearning for the simple and good things of life to return, like having a coffee outside at a street café while watching the world go by.

Lockdown is not like war, because then, although there were curfews and blackouts, people could gather and interact in the ordinary ways in which a society does: at work, school, and socially. In war, people long for peace, of course, and so do we — a peace which is more than the absence of war. Peace, Shalom, means the integration of lives in mutual fulfilment and harmony. It is essentially creative, reconciling, connecting. That is what we mean when we hear and say “Peace be with you.”

My favourite psalm is Psalm 42, in which we find the deer yearning for the dried-up river beds to flow with water again. The deer yearns to drink, just as “my soul longs for you, O God”. The psalmist feels that God is not listening or doing anything, but, in feeling the yearning in prayer, comes through to “hope in God, for I shall again praise, my help and my God”. My yearning is, at least, threefold: to hold again those I love; to take my place as part of a wider peace, a new society; and to hope, in the steadfast love of God by day and at night, God’s song with me (Psalm 42.8).

Z is for Zip

The end of the alphabet, but then what does it matter which order the letters come in? Even a keyboard doesn’t follow the order we all know. We do need some markers in a landscape where the horizon doesn’t get nearer. Some time, clock time, marches on, each month after weeks, after days. Some time is more profound, and we sense that a time, a turning point, a marker has been reached.

Zips are a lot faster than buttons: you can zip up and unzip easily. But zips have a habit of getting stuck. Some zips don’t lead anywhere at all: they are just for show, to make you think there’s a useful pocket.

Life has slowed down, and I, like you, am living differently. I have more time for the present moment. I am open, unzipped now to what comes through my senses, particularly nature, the wind, colour. I am conscious that I have become more open to myself, less judgemental, less demanding of myself and others. Yes, I can see a pile of unsorted papers, a floor that needs to be swept; and, mostly, there is a space between seeing and acting, a space where I can choose to sweep, or to read, to sort or to ask someone if they would. Once, I would have found myself stuck in frustration, trapped between the teeth of immediate action or suppressed resentment.

I don’t want to lose what I am unzipped for, open to now. I want this time to be more than a zip there for show, serving no purpose. I’d like to keep my sensitivity to myself, and I hope to others, but I guess, as I think about zips, that I’ll need to zip up or close down some things to create time and space for what is life giving now. The days of lockdown because of the Covid 19 pandemic will come to an end, but, for God, “one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as one day” (2 Peter 3.8).

Time passes, and inner growth and wisdom endures, folded into who we are, within God, in whom all time dwells.

The Ven. Justine Allain Chapman is the Archdeacon of Boston, in Lincoln diocese.

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