University Congregational Church
Aug. 9, 2020
Reigniting! A Sense of Motion
Psalm 90:12 and Ephesians 5:15-17
Early during the stay-at-home order, I saw that Ellen Awe from our congregation was making her special Mennonite bread. She was raised in a Mennonite home with wonderful recipes for homemade things. She called me and asked if there were people in our church who might appreciate some homemade rolls. I jumped at the chance and gave her a few names (but I resisted putting my own name on the list). To the delight of some of our homebound members, she left packages on their doorsteps! Those rolls carried with them many messages “hello”, “thank you”, “I miss you”, “I appreciate you”, “I care about you”, “I’m thinking about you”. And for Ellen, it reminded her of baking when she was a child. The whole circle was complete!
I admire Ellen for being creative and seeing through the isolating haze of these days. She pried herself from the routine and undertook a creative action. It has been easy during these times to get stuck.
• TV is full of re-runs
• Stores are closing and some aren’t even open
• It isn’t safe to go into the places we are accustomed to going
• We are supposed to stay in instead of our regular social schedules
• We try not to eat out or invite as many people over as we used to
• Life is at a much slower pace
• Many employers are encouraging people to work from home
• We have completed many of the tasks we had postponed and aren’t certain what to do next
It really is easy to get stuck! That’s why Paul and I have been preaching about Reigniting! our lives. During a pandemic, we all need a bit of a push to get moving and keep a charge in our batteries.
Today’s lesson on Reigniting! our lives is about motion – how do we start when we are in a rut? How can we be productive? How do we get un-stuck? How do we move out of inertia and into action?
Our traditional texts for today are from the Psalms and from Ephesians…
“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5: 15-17
“So teach us to count our days
that we may gain a wise heart.” Psalm 90:12
Dave and Joan were a husband-and-wife team of dentist and hygienist. They were accustomed to working long hours. When they retired, time loomed large, and it took a great many activities to fill it. First, they began working as a team, carving and painting fine decoys. Their decoys were so great that they even won a national championship.
Soon they discovered that work with the carvings wasn’t enough for them. They volunteered their dental services at a prison. This was wonderful and kept their hands busy, but it still wasn’t enough. Joan began working out at a local gym. Dave looked around for another hobby too and found it in baking fresh bread. He gave loaves to friends and neighbors. Soon, people were asking for bread baking lessons and Dave found that he enjoyed teaching novice bread makers.
“The more I do, the more I want to do,” Dave says. “The more I sit around, the more I want to sit around – and it’s the sitting around that’s hard.” Taking a small action leads us to more action. A small action sets us on a journey that helps us know what we want and what we don’t want; what we want more of and what we want less of. One small action may help bring us clarity and goals. Reading the “GO!” Section in the Wichita Eagle can be the first step in determining the next step.
Julia Cameron reminds us: “Taking the first step moves us from stasis into action. When we move into action, we gain self-esteem. We value our actions and we value ourselves for taking those actions. We feel a sense of our own power. As we act in the direction of our own dreams, we are given strength and courage. The first word leads to the next.” Many of us have spent years dreaming of what we want to do; something we want to attempt or a project we want to accomplish.
• It could be something we’ve postponed – a room that needs to be cleaned out or a stack of things that need to be sorted
• It might be a phone call to be made or a person that has been left too long without contact
• It might be a cause we want to support with our time, money or an in-kind gift
• We could have a physical need that we’ve put off and we really should get checked out or a program we need to start
• What relationships do we need to take more action in?
• Is there a financial issue that we might need to attend to?
• What about a creative endeavor that we’ve never explored?
• Is there something about your residence that you’d like to change?
• Is there a new skill or trait that you would like to develop?
• Would you benefit from a make-over or some self-care?
To get moving, we must focus on small things, like doing the dishes or taking out the trash. It is when we look around and think that we must clean the whole house that we are tempted to feel overwhelmed and sit down defeated. However, if we just agree in our own mind that we will start with the trash – the rest will be easier. Each small step dictates the next. When the body is in motion, it is easier to stay in motion. This is a spiritual truth. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
Even doing a mundane task can help us start some forward motion when we are stuck. When I was in Indiana recently, I noticed that my son walked outside and threw a tennis ball for the dog when he was stressed. They didn’t play a long game of fetch – sometimes it was 2 or 3 throws of the ball – but it was enough for him to get him mind cleansed of whatever was troubling him.
I know another person who walks around the building when he is struggling to focus at work. He doesn’t even walk around the whole block – just the building he works in. He just jumps up from his desk and tells his coworkers he will be gone for 2-3 minutes and heads out to clear his mind. It works!
I recently had an MRI where my head went into the machine first. It was a complete panic experience and I had no idea I would feel that kind of anxiety. I have had MRIs before without any problem. In that small space with no light and lots of noise, I decided that I had to use my mind to distract my brain from the crazy thoughts…. So I sang at the top of my lungs without moving the rest of my body… inside the MRI darkness I distracted myself for 35 minutes and made it through without a Xanax.
If we think of God as an acronym – GOD – that reminds us of Good, Orderly, Direction – we can move forward and productively in a positive way. That’s what the psalmist encourages – to count our days and to be wise.
So, there it is! If you are stuck during coronavirus and not feeling very motivated, start small and think about G-O-D. Think about something good, and orderly that gives you a direction. Start somewhere. Sing. Throw the dog a ball. Take a walk. Bake some bread. And then, do the next thing.