Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…

I attended a conference this past week with ELCA pastors from across the country. Our national ELCA Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, was in attendance. Our Lutheran Disaster Relief partners were present and happy to see us. Trinity Lutheran Church on Whidbey Island by itself has given nearly 4% of all the money that the ELCA has raised for Eastern Europe/Ukraine Relief.

It was a great week to connect with colleagues after two years of Zoom meetings. I had the opportunity to have dinner with the President of Luther Seminary, and enjoyed another dinner with a prominent ELCA pastor from the Midwest. Sharing the journey in these pandemic days is important. As is often the case, the most valuable moments take place over coffee or dinner.

The theme of the conference was anxiety. This was much better than a conference a decade ago where a theologian talked about “hell” for 8 hours. I had a better understanding of hell after those sessions, or at least purgatory. There were some valuable takeaways from the initial sessions:

1. Anxiety puts one in a false reality.
2. Anxiety does not know what to do with laughter.
3. What someone else thinks about you is none of your business unless they want you to know it.

That night I had my lifelong nightmare. I was in college, the semester was about to end, and I had not been to class in a very long time. My assignments were not up to date, I had waited too long, I needed to drop the course (too late), and I needed to talk to the professor.

I woke up having sweat out. TMI.

There are many reasons for anxiety these days. We carry a heavy load. We are anxious about the political realities in our country, the war in Ukraine, the drought in the Southwest, and the downturn in our 401K. We worry about children and grandchildren, we wait nervously for medical test results, our bodies are aging, and I can’t remember the other one.

Anxiety takes us to a false reality. We begin to think that plane travel is dangerous, we believe in conspiracy theories, we imagine that we are not safe on Whidbey Island. There are many real problems in the world and in our nation, but most of them are entirely out of our control. Managing anxiety is about accessing the danger of perceived threats, taking steps to address those things that are in our control, and trusting God for the rest.

None of us are in a position to stop the war in Eastern Europe. We will not be joining the fight, we cannot control Putin or manage military strategy, but we can support the plight of the refugees. We will do our part to come alongside of those who are suffering. Your generosity has already eased the overwhelming burden of the displaced.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I would encourage you to come to church and be uplifted by songs of hope and words of grace. Get some balance in your life and be with people who are trying to live and love and follow Jesus.

One day closer,
Pastor Jim