From My Perspective

Reflections through a Lens of Faith from Pastor Jen

Please Get Vaccinated

Please Get Vaccinated

If you’re eligible, please get vaccinated.

That’s my message this week. If you’re eligible, please get vaccinated.

The rise in the delta variant of the coronavirus was predictable because viruses mutate when insufficent numbers of people in the population are immune. Future mutations can be prevented if enough people get vaccinated. Lives will be saved.

There’s an old story of a man stuck on his rooftop in the midst of a flood, praying to God for help.

A man in a rowboat comes by and shouts up to the man on the roof, “Jump in! I can save you!” The guy on the roof shouts back, “No, it’s okay. I’m praying to God and God is going to save me.”

So the rowboat moves on.

Then a motorboat comes by. The woman in the motorboat shouts “Jump in! I can save you!”

To this the stranded man says, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and God is going to save me. I have faith.”

So the motorboat moves on.

Then a helicopter comes by and the pilot shouts down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.”

To this the stranded man again replies, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and God is going to save me. I have faith.”

So the helicopter reluctantly flies away.

Soon the water rises above the rooftop and the man drowns. He goes to heaven and finally has his chance to discuss this whole situation with God. He exclaims, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!”

To this God replies, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”

God has gifted us with smart and persistent researchers who have developed multiple safe and effective vaccines. God has sent us a life boat.

If you are eligible, please take hold of it. Get vaccinated.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

Kindness Heals

Kindness Heals

An episode of the radio show “On Point” with Meghna Charkabarti caught my ear this week. The title of the show was “The Mutual Benefits of Kindness,” and Charkabarti interviewed Christine Sheil, a woman who spoke about her volunteer work at a Veterans’ retirement home. Every month she visits, plays the piano, and sings with the residents. The residents love it! They enjoy singing, laughing, and getting together to do something a little different that day. It clearly brings them joy.

But the point of the show was that it isn’t only the residents who benefit. Christine Sheil spoke about the joy it brings her, how it connects her with her deceased father who had loved music and her deceased mother who had spent her last years in an assisted living facility. Charakbarti then interviewed a psychology researcher who shared the science behind the psychological and physical benefits of helping others. She talked about things like those “feel good” endorphins and anti-inflammatory oxytocin; she spoke about anxiety-reduction, and longevity associated with volunteering.

In short, kindness heals both the recipient and the giver.

Next week, our youth director Tom Schauer is leading a group of 27 youth and chaperones to Wilmington, Delaware on a mission trip. We’ll be working in people’s homes perhaps painting, clearing brush, putting up siding, painting, repairing fences, fixing gutters, painting, … (I’m anticipating a lot of painting.) I don’t doubt that the residents who receive us will be grateful. They will enjoy talking to the youth. They will appreciate the work done on their homes. They will find healing in the relationships.

But those of us who serve will discover healing as well. It’s been a long time of pandemic and the emotional well-being of many youth and adults has suffered due to the isolation. My prayer is that the endorphins and oxytocin will do their work; that the connections made and relationships formed will be healing for all.

Kindness heals. Thanks be to God.

“I will restore you to health and heal your wounds”, declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 30:17

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

Back to Practice

Back to Practice
Photo by Pete Nuij on Unsplash

The old wisdom was that we cannot control our feelings – we can only control our response to our feelings. We can’t control whether we become angry, scared, sad or happy – but we can control how we respond to those emotions.

That was the old wisdom. Recent research suggests that we may have been wrong.[i] It turns out that we may have more control over our emotions than previously thought. It has to do with how our brains recognize physical changes in our bodies and associations with past experiences.

For example, say we’re hiking in the woods and we see a black bear in the distance. Our heart rate may increase, our palms might start to sweat, we may start to breathe more quickly. Physical changes.

If our experience with black bears comes from watching Season 1 of Alone on Netflix  (a favorite reality series of mine in which people are left out in the Arctic to survive on their own) when Wayne gets charged by a black bear, our brains will register these physical changes as fear – and lots of it!

On the other hand, if our experience with black bears comes from times in which we went hunting with loved ones and the experience of successfully tracking a black bear was a joyous one, our brains might register the sight of a black bear as excitement rather than fear.

NPR reported on the implications of this research this week.[ii] In the report, psychologist Belinda Campos suggests that one way out of the blahs is to practice positive emotions – take part in activities that lead to feelings of gratitude, wonder, contentment, and awe. The more practice we have with the positive emotions, the more likely future events in our lives will bring us back to these emotions. She talks about intentionally cultivating such experiences.

I was struck by the fact that faith communities are usually places which support and nurture these positive experiences of gratitude, wonder, contentment, and awe. One reason the pandemic has been emotionally difficult, is that many of us haven’t been able to do the very things which bring us joy and lead to resilience. We’ve missed the “practice” time to nurture the positive emotions we need.

As we look ahead to gathering together again more fully, I think I’m most looking forward to the opportunities to serve together, to laugh together, to be grateful together, to be astonished by the grace of God…together. I’m looking forward to getting back to practice.

For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
    at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

 Psalm 92:4

In Christ,

Pastor Jen