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No Worry - October 10, 2021

By Joan Kessler

Reading: Matthew 6:25-33

Gratitude, it happens,

needs less room to grow

than one might think –

is able to find purchase

on even the slenderest

of ledges, is able

to seed itself

in even the poorest of soils.

Just today, I marveled

as a small gratitude

took root

in the desert of me—

like a juniper tree

growing out of red rock.

If I hadn’t felt it myself,

I might not

have believed it –

but it’s true,

one small thankfulness

can slip into an arid despair

and with it comes

a change in the inner landscape,

the scent of evergreen

- by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

These words of poetry written by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer were just what I was looking for this Thanksgiving weekend. The other Monday, I took a drive to Big White, and it was my first visit to this resort community. The weather that day was overcast and the air was heavy with mist and moisture. I had no idea of what I would find once I got there as I made my way up the mountain, and all the switchbacks, past the most peaceful herd of cattle who just knew to sit on the sides of the highway and not on top of it. When I got to town, I found a very sleepy place this day…it was like no one was home. I saw the odd construction worker building more condos…children at the small Community School going back to class from their lunch recess. But it was the scent in the air that midday that is still most memorable. Despite the rain and risk of getting wet, I smelled the most glorious perfume of pine or fir trees in the moist air. All I could do was stand in it…I couldn’t take a picture of it…I couldn’t put the smell in a container to take home with me. It felt very temporary, and in this moment, there was no COVID, no polarization over vaccination, no worry…just pure gift right under my nose…it was there whether I showed up to notice or not. And this was and continues to be a moment of immense gratitude for me.

I try not to be a fearful person. My current list of worries is really pretty small. I remember my grandmother telling us, “Don’t worry until there is something to worry about.” Good advice indeed. A lot of precious energy and resources can be spent on worrying and being fearful of things that I have no control over. So I try to be cognizant of my worry list and let go those things that haven’t happened yet and maybe never will. But COVID has put this to the supreme test. Making decisions, long-term and sometimes even short-term planning evades us. Do I go away or stay home? What if COVID get worse and I’ve missed an opportunity? What about the people I encounter along the way? It can be hard to manage uncertainty.

There are a few things one can do to help however. One recommendation I found encourages us to stay informed but not to overload on statistics and news. The easiest way to manage COVID anxiety is to focus on the things you can control. The questions of how long will the virus be around for, how will others behave, are questions of the unknown. We could shift our focus from these fears to the things one can control…what safety decisions can I make for myself. I am reminded of Brene Brown’s wisdom that her life is better when she assumes that people are doing their best and how this thought keeps her out of judgment and lets her focus on what is and not what should or could be.

In Our Thanksgiving reading, we hear words from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount…an address that begins with words of blessing…. you who grieve, who are poor in body and spirit and pocketbook…you who are troubled and worried about many things…you are blessed. And with this assurance, Jesus speaks to the need of the moment. Don’t worry about the clothes you will wear or the food on your table. Instead, look to the natural wonders and beauty all around you. The birds, the flowers…they just exist to their fullest potential. They are right there, and the birds and the flowers don’t worry about anything. And Jesus is so right when he says worrying does not add to the span of your life. There is an abundance of research that affirms this and we know that stress and worry can have harmful effects on our health and wellbeing. Worrying takes on an energy all of its own and becomes a tool for trying to predict the future and avoid nasty surprises…worrying is a means of gaining control of a situation but we can’t control everything that happens to us.

Fear and worry is the antidote to living a grateful life and finding the joy and wonder of what is right before us. On this second COVID Thanksgiving, I invite us to consider our worry list…what are those things that you can control and what are things that you cannot. Giving up worries moves us into a grateful space, one of abundance, and it makes us a happier human race. I do not disregard tragedy or medical diagnoses that alter the course of one’s life…. the fear and uncertainty of the future is very real. But living in the present moment with gratitude for all we share life with is a remarkable remedy. The pandemic has reshaped how we live and our relationships with others… It can be hard to be grateful for all the sacrifices we have had to make. But when we give thanks for everyday things we make them visible again….what are these things for you…what do you notice in your created or natural environment that just exists for its full potential without any worry? Maybe it’s the vibrant colors on the trees…the geese flying overhead in v-formation…the coffeemaker’s full pot of coffee just waiting for you…what do you see? Jesus cared for his listeners that day…folks with real problems and concerns and tells them it is okay to just put those burden and worries down. God knows we have things to worry about and Jesus reminds us to look in another direction for examples of loving providence.

On Tuesday, our council will meet to weigh the pros and cons of resuming Sunday services in the building. It is a very heavy decision for all but we want you to know, whatever is decided, the utmost care and precaution will be taken with respect to safety. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for Zoom, for keeping our community safe and together…I am also trying to be grateful for an unknown future… Planning and preparing going forward alludes me this week …because COVID only knows. The longer we are out of our building, what does a return look like and what criteria will we need to see met in order for this to happen? I am trying to be content with the not knowing and find peace because COVID is not in my control, I can only do what I can do to prevent contracting the virus, and keep myself, and others safe. And I’m looking to the flowers that remain this crisp October morning and the geese flying overhead. They have it figured out, they know what they know, they don’t worry, they just keep doing what they were created to do. And so will I. “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own...just focus on today, Jesus says, and you’ll be just fine. Yes, let’s try that.

A very grateful Thanksgiving to you all, dear friends. May peace and gratitude find you this day and always. Amen.

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