A Pastoral Lockdown Reflection with Some Tips

Dear Church.

I guess we’re all feeling all the emotions!

This morning, during my silent prayer, I noticed that my mind was very restless. It was very therapeutic to keep coming back again and again to my prayer phrase: “be still.” (from Psalm 46:10).

This past weekend our MRBC theme was: “Spiritual Warfare.” On Saturday, the Board went for a retreat and meditated together on Ephesians 6:10-20, and then on Sunday Bruce preached on the same passage.

The words of the passage that really stuck out for me over the weekend were: “the shield of faith” (the rhema in the logos!) Of course, we all need to don all the spiritual armour every day, but I really sense the need to take up the shield of faith today because this really feels like a test of faith, at least to me.

I’m finding that I’m experiencing a sense of déjà vu and I feel the trauma(s) of 2020 triggering in me. Does this all sound a bit dramatic? Well, I’m just being honest.

I was so excited to stop sending emails like this (a.k.a. pastoring from behind the screen) and I was deeply relieved to be getting into intensive pastoral visitation. I had a heap of connections lined up this week and as I had to cancel them all yesterday I felt very sad indeed.

And yet, this too shall pass! I really hope that this will indeed end at 6pm on Friday and we can get back to normal.

So, I’m holding onto the shield of faith reminding myself that God is here, God is for us, and God loves us. Therefore, we can confidently say to ourselves, “We are good, we are safe, we are loved” and we can confidently anticipate the Spirit’s provision of peace, hope, and joy in the midst of these surprises and curve balls.

Here are a few tips I have for you at this time:

1. Please don’t get sucked into the vortex of social media. It’s just not healthy. It’s an echo chamber and as we all now know, the corporate algorithms are only going to latch onto and reinforce your negative views and emotions (because that’s what drives clicks, and therefore what drives profits). You don’t need that, you need Jesus.

2. Don’t get sucked into the vortex of the unending news cycle. I’ve just taken a 1 and a half month break from the news and it was bliss. I felt a sense of profound freedom by getting out of the stream of ‘bad news consciousness’. Having to reengage with it yesterday was truly depressing. My advice to myself is – find out what you need to know and then move on to better things.

3. Read your Bible and pray. At the moment I’m using The Common Prayer app (see: https://commonprayer.net/). I usually only do the morning one (when I remember) and it includes some wonderful readings and prayers. And for goodness sake, don’t judge yourself or berate yourself when you miss a day (or five).

4. Read our common book, “When The Soul Listens.” You should have finished chapter 1 by yesterday and begun chapter 2 today. The plan is to finish chapter 2 and 3 by the end of February. As I re-read chapter 2 last night, I was filled with excitement – I found myself saying “Yes!!!” to every line. Also, please don’t forget the lectures available at this link by the author: https://podcasts.apple.com/nz/podcast/chm1310-min6310-developing-spiritual-disciplines-group-1/id389262632.

5. Find a healthy, wholesome podcast that you can learn from. It’s like going to school/college/university. It expands your horizons and gives you food for thought. Especially try to listen (really listen – with empathy) to people who disagree with you – it helps you learn how to exist within the marketplace of ideas without becoming angry and anxious. If you need some recommendations, let me know.

6. Find a silent prayer practice and practice it faithfully and diligently (meaning – twice a day for 20 minutes). There are three Christian ones – Centering Prayer (see https://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/), Christian Meditation (see http://www.wccm.org/), and The Jesus Prayer (see https://www.orthodoxprayer.org/Jesus%20Prayer.html). Find which one works for you! I am currently doing Centering Prayer and am finding it very meaningful. Please don’t dismiss these as mere Western parodies of Eastern and Buddhist meditation. They are rooted in our Christian tradition and are part of our rich heritage (they belong to us and we need not give them away).

7. Don’t panic. Let’s not buy into the mentality of fear, anxiety, and dread. We are children of the living God and we are a family! So,  if you have needs, let me know and I’ll try to organise help.

Finally, if you just need to chat and have someone pray for you, my number is o4977 l7543.

I hope you’ve been able to read this far and that what I’ve written is helpful and encouraging.

Peace to you, and all Good,

Pastor Craig.

P.S. Don’t forget the news feed on our website – https://www.margaretriverbaptist.org.au/blog/.