Our Shakespeare Moment

I couldn’t get out of bed this morning. It wasn’t because I was just so comfortable that I wanted to remain put a bit longer. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to disturb my two cats who found their way upstairs and decided to purr contently in the mess of blankets that I burrowed into more deeply on this chilly spring morning. It wasn’t because I really needed the extra rest. It wasn’t any of this. shakespeare-books
I couldn’t get out of bed this morning because I was scared of the news this day would bring. I was feeling helpless that I couldn’t do anything for others in this time of pandemic, except isolate myself from them. And, I was feeling a deep mourning that I never expected to feel. I was mourning the loss of my creativity.
Since the virus known as COVID-19 entered our lives, I have not been able to concentrate on reading, praying and worst of all, writing. And I feel lost. Words have always been my closet friends — there for me when I grieved, when I rejoiced, when I needed to vent, when I needed to speak up for justice, to get a point across or to comfort others. But now my “friends” have decided to social distance themselves from me.
This should be my moment to shine, shouldn’t it? To be a voice of hope and faith — of certainty in God’s goodness — in this time of uncertainty. It has been said that during times of crisis in history — even plagues— that great literary works have been written and songs composed. Artists were changed by the crisis — moved, touched and ultimately inspired.
Take for example, William Shakespeare.
At the end of the 16th century, a plague forced the closing of all theaters in London, similar to the lights currently going black on New York’s Broadway. Not being able to produce plays, Shakespeare turned to poetry. When theaters reopened, Shakespeare was back to writing his plays. But in the summer of 1606, at the very height of a successful theatrical season that included productions of King Lear and Macbeth, the flag was lowered at the Globe theater. The doors were locked. London was locking down as the plague had returned. It was a devastating time of uncertainty — and of death. Yet, Shakespeare biographers purport that this time shaped the future writings of this great literary genius in amazing ways. The death, the devastation, the darkness deepened his views of the world around him, added richness to his words.
I wonder, is this our time to be changed — to go deeper than we have ever gone before in how we understand the world, humanity, life, love and death? Is this time of social uprooting due to a virus named COVID-19 not just a temporary inconvenience, but a time to plant new roots in richer soil? To not be afraid to change direction and to go from plays to poetry; from traditional Sunday worship to video devotionals; to go from what we thought we should do to what we always dreamt of doing?
Could it be that our change in our daily routines — not being able to go to the office, or the gym or church as we once did — is pointing us to a new life that is less busy and less stressed?
Is this the much needed, and long overdue, moment to have our priorities called into question? Did we get fooled into a sense of security because our financial portfolios were doing well? Did we really understand the problems in our society what were kept in the shadows of our own contentment, our own needs, our own wants?
Perhaps this is our Shakespeare moment in which we have been invited to finally see the world for what it is — broken, hurting and unjust for many. Perhaps this is our Shakespeare moment not necessarily to have our creativity soar to new heights so that our words and ideas take centerstage for worldly accolades, but to step back and allow death, devastation and darkness the opportunity to deepen our worldview, our faith, our lives — no matter how painful or uncomfortable that will be.
Perhaps this is our Shakespeare moment in which when this crisis passes — and it will — a new richness will bless our lives. Richness beyond material things. Richness of resiliency. Richness of rest. Richness of rejoicing. Richness that comes when we lean fearlessly into the words spoken at the start of the Lenten season that from dust we come and to dust we return.
I couldn’t get out of bed this morning. I was feeling overwhelmed. My inner Shakespeare just didn’t want to pick up the quill to write. And that’s okay. This is not a time to shine. This is a time to ponder, a time to pray, a time to prepare for the great works that are to come from a crisis that is changing my heart — and yours.

Donna Frischknecht is editor of Presbyterians Today magazine. She is also a part-time rural pastor serving a congregation in upstate New York on the border of Vermont. 

 

This Way of Life: A Little White Church Lenten Journey

Sabbath Rest—A Prayer for You

Lent is a 40-day journey that takes us to the cross of Good Friday. But did you know Sundays are not counted in the 40 days? That’s because Sunday represents a “mini-Easter,” reminding us that we worship on Sunday because it was the first day of the week in which the Risen Lord appeared to the women at the tomb. Thus, early in our worshipping history Sunday was often referred to as Resurrection Day.

And so on our Little White Church Lenten Journey, I want to use these Sundays in Lent as a time to break from the traditional reflections and share with you prayers that I have found meaningful. The one featured today is extra special to me for it is a prayer written by a dear saint I met at the little white church I served. images-1

This prayer came to me one especially trying day in ministry. At first when I saw the email, in which it was sent, I misread it. I read it as if this email was asking for prayer. That’s how my minister brain works—always assuming I’m being called on to pray for others. But as I read it more closely I realized that wasn’t the case. Rather, someone was offering a prayer for me. What made the prayer even more meaningful was this woman, who was new to our family of faith, took the time to write it herself.

And so on an especially trying day in ministry I was reminded I don’t carry the burdens alone—I had a family of faith who were there to carry the burden, lighten the load and share the glorious work of building God’s kingdom together.

Through my tears I read the prayer staring at me on the computer screen, which was lighting up the darkened living room in which I sat. But it was more than just the glow of the computer screen lighting up the room. It was the light of Christ shining from her words that were lighting the darkness on my path.

This prayer was—and still is to me—a powerful testimony to how God’s Spirit was awakening the men and woman of the little white church to new possibilities of being Christ to one another.

And so I share “A Prayer for You,” named after what was in the subject line of the email I opened one night in which I stood in the need of prayer. May this be your prayer as well.

Lenten Blessings,

Pastor Donna aka The Accidental Country Pastor

 Dear Lord, I thank You for this day. I thank You for my being able to wake once again, to see and to hear this morning. I’m blessed because You are a forgiving God and an understanding God. You have done so much for me

and You continue to bless me. Please forgive me every day for anything I have done, said or thought that was not pleasing to you, and I ask now for Your forgiveness.

Please keep me safe from all danger and harm. Help me to start this day with a new attitude and plenty of gratitude. Let me make the best of each and every day to clear my mind so that I can hear from You. Please broaden my mind that I can accept all things. Let me not whine and whimper over things I have no control over.

Let me continue to see sin through God’s eyes and acknowledge it as evil. And when I sin, let me repent, and confess with my mouth my wrongdoing, and receive Your forgiveness. And when this world closes in on me, let me remember Jesus’ example -to slip away and find a quiet place to pray. It’s the best response when I’m pushed beyond my limits. Continue to use me to do Your will. Continue to bless me that I may be a blessing to others.

Keep me strong that I may help the weak. Keep me uplifted that I may have words of encouragement for others. I pray for those that are lost and can’t find their way. I pray for those that are misjudged and misunderstood. I pray for those who don’t know You intimately. I pray for those that don’t believe. But I thank you are in my heart and that I do believe. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.