Getting a Handle on Life

by Amanda Peterson

I purchased a card once that had a man sitting in the middle of the desert, looking disheveled, holding a handle in his hand, and the caption read, “I used to have a handle on life but then it fell off”.  With the beginning of the New Year there can be this sense that if the handle fell off in 2015, now in 2016 it might attach again.  Yet what we find happening at the end of year just moves with us into the New Year.  There is a sense if only one could find the right device, the handle on life would be securely in place, and whatever happens there is a means to manage it, understand it, and have some control in it.  A means to ride the tiger in a sense, without getting thrown off and eaten.

The handle is a very important part of life. Often the emphasis is on what the handle connects to. The situation or person that needs to be opened or changed or moved.  How does one move this stone?  How does one get a handle on an overwhelming issue? How can someone feel life is manageable and not just a series of uncontrollable events?  How does one put a handle on fear?

What if, rather than a way of controlling and managing life, the handle is what connects us to ALL the energy of life.  What if the handle is God?  Looking at it as how one chooses to hold on to God as a way of getting a hold of the person or situation.  That makes whatever is on the other side of the handle less influential than the means of connecting to it. The question becomes less about how does one roll away the stone and more about how does one’s faith and relationship with God connect to this stone?  The handle is how one connects God to the situations in life.

Over the next few weeks, we will look at these questions as a way to begin 2016, using these questions as a way to engage our faith life rather than make life manageable.  May God be your connection to all this New Year brings!!

Why I Need You to Survive

by Davin Franklin-Hicks

Last week was awkward and hard. It really was. It was one of the weeks where nothing seemed to synch up for me. From attempting to greet an acquaintance with a hug, but instead elbowing them in the nose to forgetting about a meeting I was supposed to be at while I was just chilling at home as though I hadn’t a care in the world. I set my alarm for 6pm instead of 6am not once, but twice. I woke up with this pit in my stomach and sense of dread, but it wasn’t connected to any thought. It just constantly felt like something was wrong and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I wasn’t the only one feeling this way last week. I have two friends that I talk to every single day over text regardless of rain or shine. Sometimes it is lengthy, sometimes it’s short, but we always connect. As I texted my, sometimes humorous, often complaining texts to them last week, I received very similar responses. Each of us said at some point, “What the heck is going on? Is something in the air?” Nothing was synching up.

I was avoiding things that week. I was eating less, not much of an appetite. I was walking under a plume of strangeness without knowing why. I caught myself walking very quickly through my living room as I came home, a sense of urgency to get into another room. I noticed it and wondered what the heck was wrong with me. Why am I feeling compelled to avoid so much? I walked back into my living room and realized the source of anxiety was the TV. It was the news anchor. It was the images. It was the terror in the world.

And I cried.

This thick pall that I was in the midst of was the sense of helplessness in the face of unimaginable suffering. I felt shame for the human race. I felt absolute rage for the vulnerability that is exploited and crushed. I was avoiding the pain of living in this world. There isn’t even a starting place that makes sense to me to begin to hold what is happening in the world around me. So I check out entirely. And when I do, I step out of the flow of life. My fears increase, my reasoning decreases. I am ill-tempered and checked out. I am withdrawn. All of this leads to me living out of synch.

My pastor, Rev. Delle McCormick, said something incredibly profound the Sunday after the attacks in Beirut and in Paris. She used the phrase “unsettled ache” repeatedly in her sermon and that resonated very strongly with me. The reality is I am impacted by all of this pain and violence in the world. The reality is you are too. Even if we are avoiding knowledge of it or attempting to distract, it is the thing that greets us when there is a quiet moment. It’s just on the edge of our awareness more often than not and it impacts the way we interact with the world around us.

My starting point to engage in the world again was the awareness of this very simple point: you impact me and I impact you. We do not exist in a vacuum. We do not live the individual lives that we are constantly trying to tell ourselves we are living. This is a global community.

We say something to each other at Rincon Congregational UCC that I have never said to anyone before. Often after service, during the benediction, we are encouraged to look at one another and say, “I need you to survive”. Regardless of what word you put the emphasis on in that statement, it is true and powerful. I need for you, my dear one, to survive. I also need you, my dear one, for my own survival. We are connected. It is unsettling. It is life.

image credit: Roy DeLeon