Nahum 1:7 The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. In other words, for those who turn to God and rely on God, there is Divine strength and protection and guidance not available through our standard earthly means. Today, there is a heightened concern regarding the Covid-19 virus. As a result, we human beings are seeking protection -- from germs. There are basic behaviors that we are taught: wash your hands frequently with soap and water, avoid large crowds when unnecessary, do not leave your house if you are not feeling well, sneeze and cough into your arm and stay home, avoid contact with those who are ill, and regularly clean hard surfaces with disinfectants. These are simple and practical suggestions to protect ourselves and others. The results of desiring protection have burdened the economy. I’m in the dental industry and I can tell your that it is hit hard. My company is out of hand-sanitizer, out of alcohol, and an allotment has been placed on masks. So far Darby Dental is not rationing gloves or gowns, but that may happen soon. Other suppliers have already limited quantities on these and other infection control items. Protection is important to us as we walk this earthly journey. It is a key motivation on how we think, live, and behave. In 1943 Abraham Maslow published his paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation”, where he suggested that there are five phases of human growth and illustrated them as a pyramid from the basic needs to the higher needs. He named these stages Physiological, Safety, Love, Esteem, and Self-Actualization. From my perspective today, in one way or another each stage is one of protection. Obviously, the first stage, the basic physiological needs for shelter, food, air, water, and sleep protect us from harm or death. That’s what we are experiencing today in this panic for toilet paper and hand soap. The second stage, Safety, which involves communal living, employment, social stability, and family offers protection in another way. The third stage – Love and Belonging - references friendship, family, intimacy, and a sense of connection, which protects us from feeling alone and isolated. It is at this level that our consciousness begins to extend to others. The next stage, the need for Self-Esteem, can be seen as a means of protecting ourselves from being discarded, disrespected, or criticized, so we seek achievement, the appreciation of others, avenues for expressing our uniqueness, and strategies for developing our confidence. The final stage is Self-Actualization or Self-Transcendence. This is our highest and most complex need. In a sense, we want to protect ourselves from being useless, lost, or irrelevant. When we are motivated by Self-Actualization, we consider ideas that protect us from the onslaught of typical negative human consequences. We display high morals, spontaneity, creative outlets for expressing our fullest potential, connect to others universally, and look for purpose and meaning in our existence. This is the spiritual realm, as we grapple with the Ego, or not edging God out. Whether my analysis of these stages can hold up against the criticism of developmental psychologists is not important to me. What is important is the idea that protection is an essential part of our human experience. We want protection; we seek protection through our decisions and behavioral choices. I believe that the foundation for our prejudices is protection-based. It doesn’t matter how false the ideas are, we hold them because we believe that they protect us. If we can keep ourselves separated from those who we perceive as different we feel safer. To the lowest thinking part of the Collective Unconscious, ‘different’ means ‘dangerous’. So we isolate ourselves physically as well as psychologically from anyone we think may be a threat. We form gangs. We live in neighborhoods of people who look like us, live like us, speak like us. These are all means of protecting ourselves. We own guns, set up alarm systems, build fences, learn martial arts, wear charms and trinkets and baubles, and memorize prayers, affirmations, and even recite superstitions to protect ourselves. In order to protect our health, we eat specific kinds of foods, take nutritional supplements, and exercise. We search for mates, friends, companions along life’s journey to protect us from loneliness. We take out warranty plans, life insurance, health insurance, auto insurance. Just watching a baseball or football game we can observe the clothing and articles of protection: cups, helmets, gloves, masks, mouthguards, all designed for protection. Some of us protect ourselves by learning, reading, and educating ourselves. We master certain skills partly to protect ourselves. Protection plays a large part in all our pursuits. It is not the sole reason, nor even the primary reason, but it is a significant portion of our life journey. And it always has. Over the hundreds of thousands of years of existence and conflict, we have come to develop better and better weapons, shields, and armor. From the thick fur of a bear or bison, to the shields made from wood and leather, to the mail-lined metal-forged armor, and finally to the latest liquid-based Kevlar vests. Protection while in these bodies is necessary; fear is not necessary. And while it is important to protect our bodies, it is equally important to protect our souls, our consciousness, the spiritual part of us; the awareness of Divinity from the depths of whom we are. Ephesians 6:10-18 gives us a wonderful metaphor about putting on the armor of God. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the schemes of the Evil One. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. “Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Last week Margie mentioned this verse and shared her idea that that God’s armor is not burdensome or limiting, but is more like a screen door: it keeps out the bad things, protects what is inside, while allowing the free flow of Spirit, Life, and Love. …which leads us to St. Patrick. St. Patrick was a catholic priest who set out to bring the idea of Christ to the multitudes of pagans who lived in Ireland in the 5th century. Tradition has it that he wrote a prayer describing his theology, which has come to be called the Lorica of St. Patrick. ‘Lorica’ is the Latin word for a cuirass or shield, or any type of armor. It also has come to mean a rhythmic invocation or prayer recited for protection, often times before going into battle. St. Patrick knew that he has facing challenges in spreading his perceptions of God, so needed protection. Since he was not a warrior, his Lorica, or protection, would be his faith and prayer. This is a magnificent lesson for us today. We may not have to wear liquid-based Kevlar vest when we go about our day, but we can have all the protection that we need when we submit our wills and thoughts to God. Joshua 1:5 states: No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. As we expand our awareness of God, our protection moves from ourselves to the ones we love -- and beyond. Robert Hill Sr. wrote: “Love is the commitment to protecting another person’s heart with the same passion we use to protect our own.” Love protects us; it protects those to whom we direct it. 1 Corinthians 13:7 teaches as much: Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. We will never know all the ways that God has protected us or how Spirit has influenced our thinking. As goofy, quirky, and misdirected as I am at times, I would be even goofier, quirkier, and more off-track if it were not for the Grace of God. I am one of those who does not believe there are any coincidences. In my heart of hearts, when I can abandon my ego, I truly believe that God is working all things for our good. The job loss is an opportunity to do something more valuable. Author of Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill wrote, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” Personally, I think my greatest need for protection is from me -- my own thoughts, and perceptions, and beliefs. I need protection from my own fear-based analyses and doubt-filled expectancies. My greatest protection comes from a non-judgmental attitude, non-attachment toward what is happening within me and around me. What I need is to look at myself and others without criticism or blame, and allow Spirit to flow lovingly through me. Einstein said that we cannot solve our problems at the same level as they are created. Applying this to Maslow’s Pyramid, our physiological and safety issues will only be solved from a level higher, through Love or Self-Actualization. I suggest that the surest way to move up Maslow’s Pyramid is to move into prayer, contemplate Christ within, and meditate upon God’s presence in our life. Self-Actualization is what God desires for us: the fullest expression of Christ through us and into Creation. As human beings, we will follow the protocols that keep ourselves and others around us healthy. But God is our greatest protection. And I pray that like St. Patrick, we will call upon the Christ as our greatest protection against what the world would throw at us, wear faith as a shield, and utilize prayer as a means to protect ourselves against the onslaught of our ego’s whiney voice of fear and doubt.