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Reisterstown United Methodist Church

Keep Calm and Trust God 4: Coping Through Emotional Times

The call came just as worship finished. Dad had been rushed to the hospital from the nursing home, and could we come. So we packed up quickly and headed to what was then North Arundel Hospital. Some of you know that my dad had a brain tumor the size of a racquet ball that wasn’t cancerous but was wrapped around a very important part of his brain so they couldn’t get it all. We knew there would be repeated issues. Dad thought – and told the docs – that they should have just put in a zipper. As you can imagine, there were lots of issues and several memorable crises.

When we got to the hospital, Mom was in the waiting room, as was another of my sisters and maybe an aunt or cousin or two – you all know how things go with firefighters and EMT’s. We were talking quietly, getting the lay of the land, when a commotion began. A woman came in from outside, screaming. The woman at the registration desk couldn’t understand a word she was saying. She was the textbook definition of hysterical. The registrar tried to calm her down just so they could actually figure out what was wrong, but to no avail. It took some very strong words from the security guard to make her understand that her hysterics weren’t going to produce the help she needed. The screaming did stop. The sobbing did not. Finally, after what seemed a very long time, she was able to let them know that her father was in the car and needed medical attention.

There is a huge difference between emotion and emotionalism. Feelings are an important part of being human and being in touch with ourselves and each other. That’s emotion. Feeling our emotions helps us deal with grief and relate to each other.

Emotionalism is feeling anger, fear or pretty much any emotion and allowing it to override good judgment. Emotionalism is buying $500 worth of unplanned stuff because you want to get back at someone or because you feel lousy about what happened at the office yesterday. Emotionalism is saying things that you regret pretty much as soon as they come out of your mouth. Emotionalism is mindless. Emotionalism is running hysterically into an ER and making it next to impossible for the emergency room staff to actually care for the person you left in the car since they don’t know if it’s you or someone else that needs help.

Emotionalism can result in so many negative things: 
• Saying things we will regret
• Lashing out in anger or fear or even grief
• Confusion
• hurting someone else
• damaging relationships
• Damaging ministr

Last week, I had planned to talk a little bit about Mindfulness, and I’m going to reiterate what some of you may have already read on our website in last week’s sermon. I recently listened to a radio program about the science of Mindfulness and Mindlessness. While the speaker was not a person of faith, what she said connected with me, and for me it relates to how we cope. I’m not going to go into the science right now, but what I will say is that Mindfulness is about being fully in the moment – noticing things, not just letting life pass by or just happen, paying attention to your inner self as well as the external situation. It made me think about emotional reacting as a kind of mindlessness – acting or speaking without thought to the consequences.

For me, part of being Mindful is learning to look at all times for how God is at work in the world and in my life.  Just as the speaker on that program said that people must be schooled in Mindfulness – probably for most of their lives – I would say that it is important to be schooled in being mindful of God in Christ throughout our lives so that we each have a full tool belt always ready for facing life’s challenges, no matter how old we are. The more we practice being mindfully in Christ, and mindfully present to the people in our lives, the more likely we are to respond well to any given situation. It will become our natural go-to behavior rather than the unhelpful emotionalism-fed reaction.

Here’s the thing: the tools always need to be sharpened – honed. Scripture. Holy Conversation. Worship. Those are the tools of a person of faith.

Jesus faced so much in his brief ministry: constantly under fire from the authorities, threatened by crowds, walking into serious situations of illness or impending death or deep, deep need. Exhausting work. Draining work. Jesus was always Mindful – and his ability to be Mindful was born of his relationship with God. He stayed fueled-up to face whatever came. We can, too.

There are a few very practical ways we can build on those faith tools as well:
• Take a breath -- and maybe count to 10. Pausing before you speak gives you some room to put yourself in a place to respond rather than react. I love a quote from Charles Swindoll that I read this week: “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” Reacting comes naturally, and if we have not allowed our reactions to be shaped by God’s hand, we are in danger of reacting at the very least unhelpfully. Take a breath! 
• Get help -- you don't have to fix it! I have to work on this one ALL the time! Ever find yourself in a situation where something needs to be cared for and you just can’t stop yourself? You have to take it on. Yes, yes and yes. Who put me – I mean you – in charge!?!  For one thing, the more you take on, the more others will let you take on or they begin to feel that you don’t trust them or that they aren’t up to the task. For another, taking on work that should be shared or delegated can be harmful in many ways – at least as harmful as when we don’t step up when we need to.
• Ask yourself: Is this really something I have to comment on or even that I should get involved in? In other words, am I answering for someone else when I should leave it to the person who has all the facts and really carries the responsibility?
• Practice Gratitude. There are a few things that pastors are taught to look for to assess spiritual health. Gratitude is at the top of the list. People who practice gratitude tend to have a brighter outlook in general and are less likely to be harmfully negative – to themselves or to others. There was a recent Facebook challenge to write down one thing you were grateful for every day – not a bad way to practice, even when it’s not Thanksgiving!

About a year ago, we saw the movie "The Hundred-Foot Journey." Helen Mirren is the recognizable star who owned a Michelin-starred restaurant in France. An Indian family buys a run-down restaurant across the road, refurbishes it and opens to great fanfare in what Madame Mallory believes is gaudy beyond belief. The entire family is involved in the new restaurant, and the chef is one of the sons who inherited the family’s precious box of exquisite exotic spices from his mother. She had taught him how to bring out the very best in food using the delicate nature of the spices and how to find the best variety of foods to make amazing meals – that is, amazing Indian meals.

Turned loose now in his own kitchen, Hassan begins to learn about fine French cuisine, and he yearns to become a fine chef in the eyes of the world – and especially in the eyes of the sophisticated restaurateur.

No matter what he does, he can’t get traction with her. He prepares an omelet for her – the dish that she says is the measure of an excellent chef – and after taking a taste she throws it in the trash – dramatically and disdainfully, of course.

Madame mindlessly rejected this eager and talented young chef. Honestly, she had to work hard to dislike him. She was seriously threatened by his talent. For, you see, Hassam had the gift. He was no run-of-the-mill cook. He was extraordinary! Madame’s fear and need to be the only game in town made it almost impossible for her to cope with the situation across the street.

Through a series of events, Madame and Hassan begin to work together as a team. Madame’s long-held dream is to earn a 2nd Michelin star – a dream that has escaped her year after year. Then, as she begins to open her heart and mind, things change. And when she is able to see beyond her long-held fears and prejudices, she opens her heart to collaborate with Hassan and magical things happen.

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