|Past0r Kevin Slough of
Trinity United Methodist
Church with Pastor
of St. Timothy Lutheran
Today’s blogging prompt is to write about someone whom I admire. I thought about that for most of the day. Who do I admire, especially now when we are cooped up in our homes, terrified of an invisible enemy. We can’t see a virus. It doesn’t jump up in front of our windows and make horrible faces. It doesn’t growl like an enormous bear. It’s not Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster or all of those scary and vicious people that populate our horror movies.
During this time of the world being shut down, what sort of person do I admire most? I decided that the sort of person that I admired most was someone who had a message of hope. A person who could address my fears and but not necessarily make me think that everything is all right. Because it’s not all right. Because I truly do not understand what happened. How did we go from a world where people went about their daily lives to a world where everything is shut down and people wonder and wait, their feelings going from terrified to bored to confused to grief stricken? How does that sort of thing happen?
One of the things that has helped me is that, every day at three o’clock in the afternoon, I can watch, via Facebook Live, the Rev. Kris Bjerke-Ulliman, the pastor of Saint Timothy Lutheran Church on Grand Island, share her reflections. She talks about faith and she talks about real life and she talks about challenges faced during a pandemic.
Pastor Kris has been talking about the fruits of the spirit, one per day. Today, the fruit of the spirit she talked about was joy. She said that joy doesn’t come from fleeting things or experiences. It doesn’t come from an ice cream cone or a smile. It comes from deep within, from that place that passes all understanding.
These days, it is hard for us to see the bigger picture. Will this ever end? We function on a day by day basis and we don’t have a clue. Pastor Kris asks, “How do we respond to what we are experiencing? What do we think when the news presents us with an incomplete picture of what is happening?”
How do we feel that joy when we are filled with anxiety? Pastor Kris suggested that one way to do that is to write two lists: the first is things that over which we have power and the second is the things over which we have no power. So I will do that, and I recommend that you try it, too. I cannot control other people. I cannot make life return to normal, with schools being open and with the town government operating as it usually does. I cannot control restaurants and airplanes. And all of those things that I cannot control go back to one source: I cannot control other people.
Now for the things over which I have power: I can control the amount of media that I am exposed to, as I know that overdosing on media leads to anxiety. I can control my own thoughts and my own feelings. I can control my behavior. I can control my diet and the amount of exercise that I get. I can control my reading choices. Once again, all of these have the same theme: I can control me and my choices.
The next step is to focus on the things you have power over, rather than on the things that you do not. We cannot control the situation that we face.
The quarantine, although annoying, is necessary at this point. It is necessary because, without it, our hospital system would collapse and many people would become ill and many would pass away. That is why we have to change our lifestyle. Because by changing that thing that we can control, we can prevent the worst case scenario from occurring.
When we choose the attitude that we want to present, we regain our power. Pastor Kris says that this is where joy comes in. The things to rejoice may be simple things like the weather. It is spring! My part of the world is coming out of its dormancy. We look outside and we can see a rainbow after a storm and we can hear the songs of the birds. The joy in a bird song is a gift, a fruit of the spirit. Our situation does not change, but our attitude does. Mother Teresa, who saw the most dire poverty in her ministry, said, “We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace; we need love and compassion.”
“Joy is a pure gift. Let us rejoice by reaching out and helping people down the road,” said Pastor Kris.