Loving Ourselves

by Rev. Eric Folkerth


Here’s the cartoon I mentioned in Sunday’s sermon. As I said then, it’s one of my favorite church cartoons in the world. Rev. Thom Elliott first shared this cartoon with me. (BTW, in the “small world” thing, Thom was Rick Lange’s grandfather, and my intern ministry supervisor!)

When we take time out for “self care” we are most definitely “busy.” We are most definitely doing important things.

Whether we are praying/meditating, eating well, exercising, or engaging in other hobbies that bring us joy, that is not “wasted” time. In fact, it’s a measure of how messed up our world is that we so often believe that it is.

Fully one-third of the Great Commandment to love is about “loving yourself.” Loving ourselves —with a non-narcissistic self love— is just as important as loving God or our “neighbor.” But, as I said Sunday, we church folks do that very poorly. We make excuses. We put things off. We promise ourselves we’ll care for ourselves tomorrow. And then, we never do.

There’s an old expression in self-care, learned from watching the instructions that flight attendants give:

“Put on your oxygen mask first.”

That’s a metaphor for the whole thing, really. For all of life.

Until and unless we can truly care for our own selves, we will not be able to care for others. Whether that “other” is our family, our friends, a job, or doing charitable work for the community.

We’ll come back to this “Desert Island Theme” quite a bit, because we all will need to be reminded again and again to practice compassionate self-care. Among all the things you are doing for your family, your community, and your Church, do not fail to love yourself, to speak kindly to yourself, to be “busy” with self-care that renews you and connects you to your true self.

You matter to God, and God wants you to practice compassionate self care.


by Rev. Eric Folkerth

At our “Get to Know You” gathering Saturday evening, a member of the church shared that the thing that breaks their heart about the world a lack of empathy.

I said, “You’re in luck…the message for the week is about Compassion.”

We are living in deeply narcissistic times. Far too many of our leaders lead from their narcissism than from their desire to love and serve humanity.

Even worse, those of us in helping professions —teachers, counselors, ministers, and other public servants— feel as if our compassion wanes the more we reach out to serve the world.

As I mentioned on Sunday, we’ve got to show both self-compassion (to ourselves) and other-compassion (to the world). Jesus’ actions around the “Feeding of the 5,000” express this polarity well. He both meets human need with genuine compassion, and he also sends everyone away to spend some time alone.

When we show ourselves compassion —by eating well, exercising, seeing friends and engaging in renewing hobbies— we find our compassion for others expands. Far too many of us say terrible things to ourselves inside our own heads. We say terrible things to ourselves that we would never say to another human being.

This is not being compassionate toward ourselves. And if we don’t do that, we can’t really show compassion for others.

As you heard me say Sunday, this great Biblical word in the picture is the word for compassion. It means to experience a visceral and physical feeling of love, empathy, connection…with others. It’s felt in the *gut,* not just the head.

In a compassionless age, God needs us to practice outward and inward compassion. So that we might be lights of compassion to a world in desperate need of empathy and hope.

Fear Not

by Rev. Eric Folkerth

FearNot - 1.jpg

On Sunday, you heard me share about my tattoo of the words “Don’t Be Afraid,” in Biblical Greek. I shared briefly about what it’s like to walk around with that on my arm every day.

The truth is, some days it’s a great comfort, and other days it’s a judgment and challenge.

Some days, when I am deeply fearful about some personal or world situation, it’s very comforting to look down and see the words “Don’t Be Afraid” stitched into my skin. I allow the words to sink in, and I start to breathe easier and rest in God’s grace.

Other days, I am in the same emotional place, except when I look down at the tattoo, I have a very different reaction. It get angry with myself for ever having gotten the tattoo. I argue with the tattoo.

“I WANT to be afraid today…I don’t feel like being brave…Stop judging my fear…Just leave me alone…”

These are some of the things I say back to my tattoo.

What I’ve discovered, however, is that these things I am speaking are not simply to the tattoo, but really to God. Those excuses, rationalizations, and justifications are really prayers of a sort. Prayers lifted out of my own insecurities.

The key moment of change always comes when I slow down. When I remember Jesus’ words, when he said “Can you add even an hour to your life through worry?”

No. No, you can’t.

In fact, medical science has pretty well shown that, if anything, we can *shorten* our life through excessive worry and anxiety.

As we said Sunday, Fear is a pervasive human condition…which is why it is such a constant Biblical theme. God keeps reminding us to “Fear Not” precisely because God understands this natural tendency to fear.

A situation made even worse because of national leaders and news/social media which stoke our fears to keep us connected. We have leaders now who don’t *calm* our fears, or assuage them. They pile-drive our fears with a sledge hammer of terrifying rhetoric. Religion that stokes fear is not the true religion of God.

God calls us to be a people who overcome our fears, so that we can show the world the way to get over its fears. We’ve got to find ways to come together —across racial, economic, political, gender and sexual orientation lines— and live together as human species. My sense of our faith tells me that learning to “Fear Not” is a key message of it, and one we’ll come back to time and time again.