The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
(Isaiah 61:1-3 NRSV)
How do you experience stress? Are you someone who is able to set aside the uncertainties that cause you alarm and focus on the things you can control? Or are you, maybe only sometimes, so pressed on all sides it feels like there is pressure on your actual body like you try to catch your breath and can’t?
Sometimes when I get stressed I remember riding in the jump seat of a friend’s dad’s Ford Ranger. If you’ve never had the “pleasure,” or if you aren’t someone who was already over 6′ tall and 200 pounds by your 12th birthday, let me help you to imagine it: it’s cramped. You can’t really see anything, either, and on this ride we were going somewhere I’d never been and, without a clock or a watch, I had no idea how much time was passing. The radio was so loud I couldn’t say or do anything. Additionally, it was a cold day, and the windows were closed tight and the heat cranked. Both front seat passengers lit cigarette after cigarette, one after the other off the one they then stuffed in the full ashtray.
It was after, I don’t know, thirty minutes of this, that I got worried I’d be sick. Additionally, I started to have this tight sensation in my chest, and my breath started to sound weird. I was about to have an asthma attack, and the fear that I was about to have an asthma attack without any way to get anyone’s attention for help made it more likely that I would have an asthma attack. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
So yeah, that’s what stress feels like sometimes. The only relief for me in that past situation was to get where we were going, step out of the car, and calmly try to breathe in that cold, fresh air. And let me tell you: nothing ever tasted better. Sometimes the only thing that will get us through a stressful time is getting to an end of it that’s out of our control, where we too find ourselves in a place where we have room to breathe.
Most of life, however, is spent between stressful situations outside of our control while we wait for other things to happen for good or ill. Where can we find relief? Take a moment today, wherever you are, and breathe in deeply. Breathe in the love and grace of God, remembering that God’s love toward you is irrevocable and offered freely, without price. It’s just there, whether you are stressed or not. Breathe and receive it today, and there find joy.
Grace and Peace,
Links to Stay Connected:
You will find every newsletter, worship service, devotional, and additional material posted on our Facebook page:
Even if you don’t use Facebook, you can access everything we have there. If you do have a Facebook account, “like” to follow our page and be notified when new things are posted or when videos are about to go live so you don’t miss anything.
There are also several ways of connecting over Zoom, too. Laura hosts a weekly coffee hour after worship. Bruce and Lynn are both hosting Advent small groups. Additionally, we may have a special link for a time of caroling to share soon. For now, here are all the current links to groups and studies:
Bruce’s 9AM Sunday Group
Bruce’s 7PM Wednesday Group
Lynn’s 2PM Tuesday Group
If you have any difficulties accessing any of those links, please reply to this message or call the church office at (908)782-1070 and we will get you connected right away.
Christmas Music on Main Street
Necessary restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings have made our normal programming difficult, but a small contingent of the Whitehouse Wind Symphony are getting together in front of the church this Saturday, December 12th, at 3:00pm. They will be playing some songs of the season for passersby. Pastor Ben will record and livestream the event over Facebook so you will be able to safely enjoy this performance.
Almost Christmas, a Wesleyan Advent
In his well-known sermon, the Almost Christian, Wesley preached about those whose faith was almost the full, life-giving reality of discipleship, but not quite. Christmas and the Advent before it are annual reminders of the miracle of incarnation, the God who loved and loves us so much they had to come down to earth and show us.
Bruce LaPenta and Lynn Becker will be leading a 5-week Zoom small group called “Almost Christmas.” Materials are purchased and available to pick up in the church office. Please leave a $10 donation for your copy of the Study Guide. Bruce’s class can be joined Sundays at 9am. Lynn’s is Tuesdays at 2PM. We hope to see at least 20 people connect through this study – all are welcome, and it’s not too late to join.