As the sun breaks the bounds of the horizon, we celebrate the limitations broken by women in our world.
From work in humanities to the hours spent researching in labs, we honor the gifts of women throughout this world. May they continue to see wisdom and knowledge that comes from you.
We celebrate and bless women’s agency – especially regarding health care and careers. May they work with you to discover the best path for their own lives.
We continue to work for equal pay and health care for women. Continue to transform our hearts to see women as beams of strength and courage.
Bless the ones who are mothers and those who mother. Heal the hearts of the ones who hurt from not yet being a mom. Bless all older and younger and middle age. Bless transgender women and the ones who love women. May they live into your calling – even when that means both career and motherhood, and may we as a world honor and create roads for their sacred paths.
The possibilities of their work are endless, God of Love. Clear paths and open the souls in our world so that your light can be seen beaming from them.
Now I lay me down to rest as I have been on days on end. There are only so many movies to stream and shows to binge and Wordles to solve and naps to take.
My mind is willing. But my body is weak.
In this season of healing and boredom, may I see your presence in the spinning of ceiling fan and the pillows beneath my head. May I see your rainbow of colors in the blandness of days. May this body heal as it should, and allow me to see how my stillness rebuilds a healing body. May this season of rest nurture the soil which will hold the seeds of my creativity.
Above all, help me to see your light and love surrounding me in the comfort of my resting spaces.
Today happened to be another Ash Wednesday in which I was home-bound on medical leave.
Once again, like in the past, I was dealing with endometriosis. The pain was increasing even though I was menopausal, and the hysterectomy proved that there was a lot of rogue endometrial tissue in my pelvic region. I’m on medical leave and not able to lead worship as I take time to heal.
Which brings me to this year’s Ash Wednesday. After two weeks of lying in bed, doom-scrolling news about the invasion of Ukraine and heightened nuclear alert in our world, the worst thing right now is to remind someone who is deathly afraid of death that she will die. (Obviously, there are many dying in Ukraine from this senseless war- and something for us to discuss another day.) I worried about what could go wrong prior to the surgery (as always), and I dealt with two years of pandemic concerns. The last thing I want to hear through sacred liturgy is that I’m going to die.
I know this with every fiber of my being. My anxiety reminds me each day that death could be imminent.
So for this year, I work to establish a different relationship with the ashes.
First of all, everything is fleeting. And this should include my worries. My concerns should be no more than the weight of the ashes which could easily be blown away by the wind. Easier said than done, but it’s worth the effort.
Secondly, as I begin Kate Bowler’s Good Enough devotional book, I’m reminded of my imperfections. The ashes remind me of an imperfect self and the need to embrace a self that works to try her best rather than attain the impossible.
I refuse to rid myself of Ash Wednesday. But the day was not always ours to dwell on death but focus on what continues to be the greatest priorities while we are alive: loving one another as Christ loved us; doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God.
And today my focus won’t be nuclear war, health issues, or pandemics, but my growing relationship with God.
Tensions rise between neighbors. Hate lurks in stores and on roads, in school hallways and political discussions. Humanity focuses more on its own individual well being instead of the well being of all.
Yet animosity isn’t the last word, and hate will never win because God’s love endures forever. Divine love dissipates all venom and sweetens all bitterness.
Even as we walk in the shadow filled valleys of toxic interactions, God’s love is lighting the path to the future. Through the Spirit of the Christ in our world, the vapors of hate will not last in our world. Love will spread from person to person, lifting the toxic fogs that linger between people.
We light the candle of love to clear the cloud of hate in our world and dissolve the mists of gloom as the Christ enters our world and brightness continues to grow. Amen.
(c)2021 Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use in a worship service (including a streamed service) with attribution.
Under the night sky We abide the beauty of God’s darkness. Beyond midnight- where miracles fill the earth and magic fill the skies. Where stars and planets twinkle, delighting both the greatest skeptics and believers.
Under the night sky In the chilly winds of nighttime, A young woman met her son, And light came into her world. This illumination spread beyond time and space, Expanding beyond human limitations into our world.
Under the night sky Humans saw the alignment of planets birthing an extraordinary light- The greatest star declaring a birth. And as human and divine aligned that night, the world shifted to a new realm.
(c)2021 Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use in a worship service (including a streamed service) with attribution.
This day and always, we send our gratitude for our educators. From the preschool teachers who instilled a love of education from a very early age to the professors who mentored us as we sharpen our crafts, they have reflected your image as a Divine Educator.
Bless the ones who stood by us when life was hard, who listened to our pain that went far beyond the classrooms. May they realize how much their words and moments saved us from our own self-doubts and the torment of bullies.
Bless the ones who taught us information that would impact the rest of our lives and the ones who gifted us information that we never integrate into our callings. May they know that moments of education never are wasted.
Bless the ones who pointed out our talents, who spoke holy words into the world that led us to our callings. May they realize their life-long impact on the ones they taught.
Bless the memories of the ones who have passed on to that side of heaven with you. We thank you for each step walked, each word uttered here on earth. Their gifts will make an impact for generations.
And for the ones who seemed extra frustrated, whose patience ran short and their emotions ran high in the classroom, bless them with the grace they need and healing from tough moments in life.
Whether they impacted our life when we were four or fourteen or thirty-four, their words and gifts build us into the people we are today. For their time and talents, we are forever grateful.
The tension rises into my forehead. Is that where this headache is coming from? The aches in my stomach are new and gnawing. And, God, what is this pain going up my neck? Is it because my shoulders are up by my ears?
Stress has been my unwanted companion for so long. But why is it I wont take the time to deep breathe, to meditate, to walk around the block?
So my mind keeps churning and turning and worrying.
God of each inhale and exhale, be my source of chilling out. Encourage me to find time to release the stress this day and each day hereafter.
The first Wednesday in November is Stress Awareness Day.
Our joints stiffen and swell. Radiating pain shoots across our necks, backs, knees, and hands. What aches will tomorrow bring? we ask ourselves. How do we walk one step at a time or fulfill our callings with the limited use of our bodies?
As we mark World Arthritis Day, may the gifts of treatments better our lives. May inflammation decrease and movement increase. May we figure out how to live fully even when various types of arthritis threaten our futures. May your Spirit guide us in the shadows and lead us into the sunlight again.
Like many of you out there, I’ve become a fan of Ted Lasso. (I probably should say that I’m now a superfan of Ted Lasso, considering all of the times I’ve watched the series all the way through.) Ted provides a leadership that is constructive and encouraging of the team – from its owner to the players to all who work for the Richmond team.
There’s a piece of the story that I believe is crucial to write about today, World Mental Health Day. (Friends: this part might contain spoilers, so turn back now if you do not want to know what will happen before the end of season two.)
In the first season (or series, as it’s called in Britain), Ted has a panic attack one night during the team Karaoke event. The owner of the team talks him through his attack, supportive of his struggles from their early days together.
In the second season, Ted has another panic attack during a game. I’m not sure what brings this one on, and I don’t think it really matters to the viewers. The most important piece is that Ted has a panic attack and must face what is happening.
Ted begins to open up to the people closest to him that the reason he left the game was due to a panic attack. And one of his confidants (Nate!) discloses this anxiety event to the press. Up until that point, Ted’s mental health issue is not public knowledge. Yet, Ted decides that talking about it with the world is crucial to bringing an end to the stigma of mental health and sports. In fact, the entire season focuses on mental health, as Dr. Sharon Fieldstone helps out the Richmond players with their own struggles.
What a blessing the story has been for the movement towards mental health. As someone who struggles with anxiety and panic disorders, I identified well with Ted’s journey. (I first wrote about my childhood journey here.) When Nate outs Ted’s panic disorder, I became very angry. “How could he do such a thing! It’s not his story!” I thought to myself. Nate attempted to discredit and shame Ted through sharing such personal information. I didn’t care how much Nate was struggling himself; I was extremely angry that a person used a health struggle to damage the reputation of another human being.
I suppose I felt embarrassed for Ted. I felt the shame that was surrounding him and that others imposed on him. And yet, when it comes down to it, why was there shame? Ted began to address the struggles. Ted went back to work the next day. Ted opened up and spoke about it to normalize the experience.
More people than we realize struggle with mental health issues. From anxiety to depression to personality disorders to being bipolar, many of our neighbors go through temporary and life-long struggles with mental health issues. But in our struggles, we feel alone. We feel like no one else is going through what we are enduring. I felt that way as I child and sometimes as I got older. But then people began to talk about it, and I spoke about it – not just to be transparent in my journey but to help someone else as they go through something similar. I give thanks for my friend Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith Lund who has been an inspiration to me writing about my journey. I find her books Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and Church as well as Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness and Marriage incredibly important for progressive Christianity. Like Dr. Lund, I am encouraging of anyone enduring mental health issues to seek help through a counselor and medication as well as other self-care activities. And like Dr. Lund (and Ted Lasso!), I am open to sharing my story as well.
Again, you can read something I wrote years ago here. But also, I’ve written a chapter in the forthcoming book When Kids Ask the Hard Questions, Volume 2: More Faith-Filled Responses for Tough Topics (edited by Bromleigh McCleneghan and Karen Ware Jackson). This chapter includes encouragement for parents to seek help if their child has anxiety or any other mental health issue. Children or adults should not feel alone in their journey, and if I can help one person feel less alone, then sharing my story is well worth it. I highly encourage you to check out this book because of the myriad of topics included. Children and parents should never feel alone in any struggles.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:
“ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
Today, to use the phraseology of Paul, I boast of this weakness of mine. I boast not from pride, but because I feel free and light in being able to tell my story. I boast because I see the presence of God in my weakness, and my relationships with God and others have grown closer in this vulnerable state. And that means, like Paul, seeking contentment in this very vulnerable moment and becoming transparent will hopefully bring strength to the entire body of Christ.
So today, on World Mental Health Day, I celebrate the stories of others who became a little vulnerable to be honest so that others feel less alone. And I celebrate my story – because it shows both my vulnerability and resilience, knowing through baby steps and the strength of God finding a wholeness is possible.
You sow new seeds in our world, and call us to harvest them when the time is right. You fill our world with new melodies, and ask us to sing them to change the air around us. You call us to use new wineskins for our wine. You ask us to try new delicacies, travel to new lands, and listen to the stories of our new neighbors. Let us embrace the Spirit of newness surrounding us, listening to your transforming call in our lives. Amen.
PRAYER OF RECONCILIATION One: Loving God, Divine Chef- We cling to the usual menu of life. We order the same food. We invite the same people. Yet what if you are calling us to order new cuisine and dine with a new group? All: Transform our minds to the adventure of newness. May the meal and the conversations we share open our hearts to new tastes, textures, and experiences. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF GRACE One: God serves us grace as we reflect on our past errors and hurtful actions. God sets us on a new path filled with mercy and wisdom. Let us rejoice as we embrace fresh beginnings! Amen!
BENEDICTION May we embrace the flavor of newness in the meals we eat this week. May the aroma of the unfamiliar draw us into new adventures. May the stories of strangers open our minds to new paths. And as the foreign becomes familiar, may the Spirit of God draw us into transforming this world with our new understandings. Amen.
(c) Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use with attribution.