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Finding Joy in Each Day

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”

I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.

The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;

    it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
    O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
    We bless you from the house of the Lord.

The Lord is God,
    and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,

    up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;

    you are my God, I will extol you.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
~Psalm 118: 1-4, 21-29

Psalm 118 contains one of those Psalm verses many of us know even if we are not well-versed in scripture, verse 24: "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." I offered this Psalm in longer sections today, because this Psalm is also one that repeatedly proclaims, "God's steadfast love endures forever." As a third note, less connected to my reflection today, this Psalm is also referenced in the Gospel stories of Palm Sunday for the reference to the "festal procession with branches." 

As we enter into the extended "safer-at-home" period, and watch the curve flatten, but still increase slightly every day, the days are beginning to blur together even more than they did a month ago. I've heard less talk about getting back to normal, and a lot more discussion of the re-opening process. Life will not be as it was at least until we have a vaccine. For many of us, or our neighbors and family, life will never fully resemble what it looked like in March. 

We do not know how long this will really last. We do no know what re-opening is going to look like. There are too many unknown factors and things yet to be determined. It is not surprising that anxiety is rising rapidly as people feel like their futures are so uncertain. Even for those without financial woes. 

A common theme in spiritual care practices, whether it is a Christian practice or from another tradition, is the theme of presence. The need to be present in what you are doing and where you are currently. We must focus not on what may come, or on what already happened, but what is needed right now, today. I believe this comes up over and over again in spiritual practices because God meets us where we are, right now, in the troubles of today. God is not waiting at some future point on our journey. God is with us now. If we want to recognize God's presence, we need to focus on what is happening now. Here. Today. 

During this quarantine, I've done a lot of online yoga. As I breathe and focus, and try to be present for this practice, I find that Psalm 118 keeps coming to mind. Some days it is the line "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Other days it is the line, "God's steadfast love endures forever." In repeating these phrases in my head, or with my breath, I find it easier to stay focused on the present moment. The use of these phrases to help myself focus has spread to other times as well. When I am struggling to help my daughters with their school work, when I am working to nurture plants in my garden, when I am in my fourth virtual meeting of the day and my eyes are starting to hurt. 

Staying present in the moment is a challenge; especially when we want to know what the next week, month, or year will bring. But I encourage you to take it on. The moment we are in, the day that is before us is where our focus is needed. God will meet us where we are. For this is the day the Lord has made. Each and every day is a new day the Lord has made, and we have the choice and opportunity to rejoice in each day as it comes. We can give thanks for what is before us, and trust that God's steadfast love endures forever. 

Easter Blessings,
Pastor Kathleen

Breath Prayer

A spiritual practice that you may find helpful in keeping yourself focused on the present and what is needed this day, is Breath Prayer. There are many variations on this. I will share two;

1) Sit or stand straight and still. Try to put your body into the best posture you can. Focus on your breath. Breathe deeply, filling your lungs as you inhale and exhaling fully to get all the air out. As you focus allow your breath to come more slowly, and try to relax the other muscles in your body. As you breathe remind yourself you are a beloved child of God. Give thanks for the air that fills your lungs, and for the gifts of creation. Give thanks for God's steadfast love.

2) Again, sit or stand straight and still. Try to put your body into the best posture you can. Then pick a short verse of scripture that is particularly meaningful to you. As you breathe in, repeat the first part of that verse. As you breathe out, repeat the second part of the verse. Repeat this until you feel that you are calm and centered. Here are some suggested verses:
Breathe in "The Lord is my Shepherd," & breathe out "I shall not want."
Breathe in "This is my child" & breathe out, "the beloved"
Breathe in "God's love" & breathe out, "endures forever"
Breathe in "Be still" & breathe out, "and know that I am God"


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