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Three thoughtful practices for centering in hard times

These are certainly challenging times. Each day the landscape of our lives is changing, with the government giving new information about how we should be responding in light of the coronavirus. Below are three small things I believe as Christians we can do that can make a big difference, both to ourselves and to those around us.

1. Be kind to everyone for everyone is fighting a great battle

The above quote has been credited to Philo of Alexandria, but the truth is we actually don’t know if it was. It’s something my wife and I tell our kids each time we drop them off at school in the morning. It reminds us that everyone is facing their own difficulties and challenges and that most of the time we don’t know what that is. In this time it is important, with heightened stress levels, to remind ourselves of this each day. This applies to our family members, work colleagues and those in our local community. The challenge I am setting myself is to be more generous in both sending and receiving emails and texts. If you get a difficult email take a few deep breaths and remind yourself “be kind to everyone for everyone is fighting a great battle”. Fill both your texts and emails with double the amount of exclamation marks and Emoji’s!

2. Do the next right thing

Our kids have either sporting or production activities every night of the week. This has all been cancelled and now our evenings are very different! We are trying to create some interesting and different spaces for ourselves. We watched Frozen 2 the other night. In the movie, Anna is faced with a situation that is so devastating that giving up would have been totally reasonable. We are not in that situation! I was intrigued by the words she repeated to herself as she began to move forward, “Do the next right thing”. I’ve decided to adopt it. There is so much we can’t control over the next few weeks (and life more generally!). We can, however, try our best to choose how we respond to what we encounter. In Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl urges this approach, particularly when most of one’s options have been taken away. Again, our situation is not like Viktor Frankl in a concentration camp, but I think the principle holds.  With so much going on, try to do “the next right thing”. That might be a specific work task or stopping to smile at your partner or call one of your elderly parents.

3. Take a Sabbath (its biblical!)

This is more challenging than the first two points. Eugene Peterson suggests that the idea of Sabbath means taking one day a week to “live as if your work is done”. This is difficult at the best of times, but particularly at present. Peterson suggests that the Jewish people started the Sabbath in the evening and went to bed trusting that God upholds the universe. As much as is possible may I suggest that you begin to practice the Sabbath in the next few weeks. It seems counter-intuitive (kind of like the losing your life to find it idea) but ultimately it will enable you to be better placed when giving yourself to work. It will also create a less stressed environment for your friends and family. It will be better for your health, your family and those you work with.

Go in Peace, Brian Macallan

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