Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy:
“It takes more than bread to stay alive.
It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”
– Matthew 4:4 (The Message version)
Never place a period where God has placed a comma.
God is still speaking.
– past slogan of the United Church of Christ, partially attributed to George Burns
It feels as if those of us who have been in isolation for many weeks have settled into a rhythm. We are learning, by virtue of repetition, what works for us, what doesn’t.
Note: I know that my isolation time and that of most of my dear friends is one of privilege. Some are still working hard out in the world. (Thanks to each one!) Without the support of the workers, those of us in isolation would waste away or be forced out to risk contagion and spreading the virus. So, we are here, learning lessons of isolation, by the grace of other human beings who are making it possible. Others, in isolation, are suffering from poverty and various forms of abuse within the home. It is not a pretty picture – not a gracious learning time – for them. This is the reality of many of our neighbors. We each need to figure out how to offer a word of safe encouragement and support to these folks. Often, in later years, we may rely on our spiritual community to be the haven to which those in dire straights can flee – so we can support their ministries, their leaders, and other social services where possible. Hopefully, they are able to point those at risk to shelter and relief.
Now, out in the community, many are returning to work or to social settings before there is a plan in place. To hold on to businesses and jobs, many will be forced to take these risks before the collective wisdom of those who see the patterns clearly says we are ready. There are others who seem forced – by emotional immaturity and the inability to “hold” their turbulent feelings while in isolation – to flee and protest and go against good judgement and leadership in order to find release from spending time with themselves. Some of our political leaders share this immaturity and lack of impulse control which does not help these lost souls to rise above their frustrations and confusions, but instead, encourages them to lash out. “I want what I want when I want it” is the driving principle.
Each of these things, above, are ones over which I currently have little or no control. I can only offer my financial contributions, or my energy, my spiritual condition to the universe (while waiting for election time) and hope that it has a ripple effect on the whole.
So, back to the rhythm of isolation. I don’t know if you are finding it this way, but some weeks I have higher goals and energies than others. Other weeks, I must focus on the simplest of pleasures, those nearest at hand and relax into them as my whole purpose. This has been such a week for me. No lofty purpose or big picture. My journal holds words of appreciation for the birds – especially red ones this week – for a cool breeze, for shade, for clouds, flowers, trees, and water. Savoring peace.
One vivid moment was a morning on the patio in which all of these things inspired me to refill the finch seed in our feeders. One is a plain “sock” style feeder that hangs from our small lime tree. I was taking the sock down from a small branch and caught a tiny movement out of the corner of my eye. Looking straight at me from about twelve inches away was a frightened, but calm and still, mourning dove on her nest. Wow! I quietly slipped away and slipped back and replaced the feeder at a greater distance on the tree. Back in the pre-COVID days, that would not stand out as the highlight of my week. But here we are on Friday, and that simple pleasure of connection with a tiny bird still rests poignantly in my mind.
I had a loaf of fresh, grain-free, dairy-free bread arrive yesterday in the mail and it was cause for dancing and celebration.
When John heads for bed in the evening – which often signals the end of the day, I also somehow celebrate that. The sweet time of brushing teeth, returning to our “nest” and reading, resting in the pleasure of soft, clean sheets and comfy pillows is deeply reassuring – breathing in our gratitude for the day and for each other. I look forward to the dream world each night, where I will experience unity with the Divine, where I will move beyond the confines of my limited vision to something more creative trying to work itself out, over which I have little control. I give thanks for these “tender mercies.”
But I also can go a bit astray in these “easy” days. Not taking adequate time for prayer and meditation, but instead “reading my phone” or scrolling through social media and playing addictive games. Forgetting to savor the moments on my patio in favor of turning on the TV or getting busy. A couple days of overdoing the mindless distracting and I feel like I’ve eaten junk food – kind of blah. Time to refresh and renew.
Music helps. Cleaning the house helps. Laughing with someone helps. Our almost daily walk time is a necessity.
Photography helps me to focus on the moment. Seeking beauty and taking a picture of it is an excellent pursuit for spiritual well-being. The photos and videos we share on Facebook, Instagram, and here help us to focus our appreciation on a moment of connection with nature, with the Divine. And those few days in which we leave the camera behind are good, too. They remind us that it is that moment, that connection, and not “capturing” it to share that is most important. These things are not junk food – they’re whole grain, organic veggies, sweet raw honey, and herbal tea for the soul.
So, eat, drink, be merry. Savor the simple sweetness wherever you may find it.
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter to a Young Poet
Love, health, peace, and laughter to you,