faith, Pandemic Wisdom

Our Real Work

Remember way back to December 2019? I barely do. The world was different then. We were stressing and anticipating the holidays. We were planning trips and adventures for 2020. We were seeing friends, having lunch and working in offices. School was going on. College was happening. There were sports, concerts and people milling about hugging each other and shaking hands in greeting.

I was looking through some of my journal notes from December. Whenever I see something that jumps out at me, I write it not only in the journal entry from the day but then I make another note in the back of my journal. Some of those notes become the seed thoughts for blogs, sermons or other speaking events.

Way back in December of 2019 I scrawled this in the back of my journal, from Richard Rohr’s Advent devotional book. This is a paraphrase, our real spiritual work is 1000 acts of love/devotion and 1000 acts of letting go.

I’ve looked through everything and cannot find the original source material for this. All I have is this tiny note of a thought, scrawled messily in the back of my journal.

This is all we need for today. Sometimes people ask me: how do I grow in faith? How do I do spiritual work? How do I get closer to God?

This is how. You work every day at loving and letting go. That’s it.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it has taught us to stop making plans; to stop predicting when things will become normal again. It has taught us that we never were in control. It has taught us that life can change in a minute.

I don’t know about you but every day, I have to practice letting go all over again. I have to let go of plans and preferences. I have to let go of worry for myself and others. I have to let go of anger and frustration. I have to let go of the what ifs. I’ve had to give up seeing my parents and in laws for the their safety. I’ve had to surrender to God day after day after day and trust that all will be well.

And love, oh my, what would we do without 1000 acts of love and devotion? I find myself so grateful in this season for small acts of kindness, tiny bits of hope, sparkling surprises and any sign that humankind is good and decent and we are headed for some kind of future unity and community.

Here in our community, as we all were in angst over the ins and outs of starting school, the everchanging date and styles (in person, online or both), it came time for our 9th annual Back to School Fair, an event sponsored by a small non-profit two of us began in 2011. This year, we had to decide if we would have it or not. Then we had call on our community partners to help us even though their fundraisers had dried up, We had to think about the safety of our volunteers and staff and students. We ended up calling on the mask makers in our community to provide a mask for each child in need who would attend the fair. We did not know how this would go (masks are still a bit controversial here). One by one, I witnessed acts of love, over 30 individual mask makers responded and started sewing. They all provided their own materials. Then, mask making groups came forward, The Merry Mask Makers, Girl Scout Troops, church sewing groups all saying, “count us in.” We collected the masks just 3 days before the fair. 2300 masks came in, all different, all made with love. Tiny masks for preschoolers with dump trucks, masks with dog prints and super heroes. Plain masks for high schoolers. Teacher masks. I saw holiday masks with the Grinch on there, ones with chili peppers and some with burgers and fries. Stitch by stitch our community loved one another through this angst ridden time. That’s spiritual work.

Do you want to grow in faith even now? Here’s the recipe: 1000 acts of love and 1000 acts of letting go. Stitch by stitch…

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor and Mosa to Keller, Pace and one on the way. See for more of her blogs, upcoming events and to learn how to participate in the weekly Jesus Calling Nationwide Prayer Call she co-hosts each Tuesday morning. Sign up there for her Inner Circle extra monthly email as well.

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