These are stressful and worrisome times in which we live!

Dear Members and Friends,

Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience.  Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress toward freedom and democracy.                                          

– Liu Xiaobo, 21st century

Former members and good friends, Jonathan, Esther & Grace Roach have excitedly announced on Facebook that they have their tickets to the 2018 Winter Olympics.  As Jonathan posted you can look for them at “the Women’s Halfpipe (Q), Men’s Slopstyle Skiing (M), Men’s Ski Cross (M), Men’s and Women’s Snowboarding Parallel Giant Slalom (Q), Men’s Speed Skating 1,000 (M), and Women’s Alpine Combined (M).”  So where are those Winter Olympics scheduled to take place?  Somewhere near their new home in New Hampshire?  No, they are happening in Pyeongchang, South Korea!  I share their excitement, but my initial thought is “Will there even be a South Korea to host those Olympics in 6 months?  After all, there is plenty of heated rhetoric going back and forth between the President of the United States and the leader of North Korea that has many people wondering if a war is about to break out on the Korean Peninsula.  (Plus Dianne and I have a trip to Seattle, Washington and San Diego, California coming up in September.  The rhetoric has us a little nervous as well.)
This past week a good friend, Jeanette, who is a Quaker who leads an interfaith organization that works with low-wage workers and immigrant workers, helping them secure their rights in the South Florida workplace, has had several sleepless nights.  She shared on Facebook she has had consistent nightmares around immigration raid and deportation scenarios.  The last one involved her facing deportation, and she is a US citizen, born and raised!  As she stated, “If I am internalizing our current reality to such an extreme, imagine what is happening to those who are vulnerable.”
These are stressful and worrisome times in which we live.  Not to mention concerns about health care, what will happen to insurance premiums and coverage, and traditional anxiety about aging, employment, health, children, parents, etc.  How are we to cope? 
One response of faith is to pray.  UCC Stillspeaking Devotional author, Tyler Connoley, recently shared a prayer practice he learned from a Buddhist friend.  It is called a Loving-Kindness Meditation.  The practice is simple: Begin by directing loving-kindness toward yourself.  Then toward people you love.  Then toward people who are neutral (like the person to your left in a group, or your mail carrier if you are doing this alone).  Then direct loving-kindness toward your enemies.  Finally, direct it toward “all living beings.”
Tyler took that practice and modified it to use language that he felt was more biblical and therefore fit more comfortably with his own spiritual sensitivities.  I offer that prayer to you as a practice that might help you breathe deeply; lower your anxiety over the heated rhetoric and hateful political speech surrounding you; and bring some sense of peace, faith, and hope to your inner life.  Regularly praying this prayer, on a daily basis can help address the poisonous spirit of hatred and enemy mentality which Chinese peace activist Liu Xiaobo warns will “rot away a person’s intelligence and conscience.”

God, grant me love.  Grant me joy.  Grant me peace.  And grant me life abundant.
God, grant my family love.  Grant my family joy.  Grant my family peace.  And grant my family life abundant.
God, grant my enemy love.  Grant my enemy joy.  Grant my enemy peace.  And grant my enemy life abundant.
God, grant all your children love. Grant all your children joy.  Grant all your children peace.  And grant all your children life abundant.

[Tyler offers one piece of advice if you have trouble praying that your enemy have life abundant: he suggests that you pray that we all have what we need, and trust God to know what those needs are (even if you secretly think some of us need a kick in the pants).  After all, it’s a practice, not a perfection.] 


R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida