Thousands of children alone in a strange country, our country. Thousands of veterans waiting far too long for health care. Thousands of people suffering because of war, disease and natural disaster.
I'd like to hide under the covers until these tragic, terrible events are resolved or simply go away. Or at least go away from the "thoughts of my heart" (a phrase from a favorite prayer).
Thinking about meeting all these great needs often overwhelms my spirit. While politicians polarize, and pundits analyze, and fear and anger and suffering spread, what are people of faith in God to do? What am I to do, as a faithful response to so much need?
I've found a tool to open a path forward.
Dom Robert Hale, a monk of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, Calif., has created a spiritual practice based on four questions. Each has two versions: one is specifically Christian, the other is designed for people of any faith or spirituality.
As I explore each question, I'm listening for God's guidance, listening to the "thoughts of my heart." It opens possibilities for finding my particular way of supporting healing, justice and peace. It's not a call to throw myself into every difficulty. It's a process of discerning how I can make a positive difference in a broken world.
The first question: "Where is Christ in this? Where is the human face of God? -- the holy?"
For Christians, God's human face is first and foremost, Jesus. But his followers are called to "do likewise": loving, healing, feeding, freeing oppressed people, speaking truth to power. Hiding under the covers is not an option.
The second: "Where is the Church in this? Where is the spiritual community? -- the gathered?"
Spiritual communities can provide comfort and support for the world-weary, but risk becoming inward-focused.
It's powerful question to ask, "where are we?" when the children are in danger, when the wounded are neglected. Acting as part of a community response, my courage and energy are renewed.
The third: "Where am I (as a follower of Jesus) in this? How am I involved or implicated (I've added 'or called by God')?"
Part of working for positive change is honestly looking at how my life may, unconsciously, support unjust or unsustainable situations. Part is seeing where I can serve best with the knowledge and experience I have. Part is facing my fears and praying for guidance.
The fourth: "Where is the kingdom of God in this? Where is the vision of hope?"
Losing hope is the ultimate defeat. Two phrases keep me going: "God's mercies are new every morning" and "always we begin again." There is always a way open to serve someone in need.
These questions show me a way forward. They affirm that I'm called to pray, listen and act. They move me to be part of communities that respond to needs outside themselves. They encourage me to be focused and effective. And they remind me that God is creating, inspiring, forgiving ... every morning.
When I feel like hiding, I remember this and begin again.
-- The Rev. Jan Griffin is a Regional Congregational Developer for the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane andTri-Cities resident. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or firstname.lastname@example.org