The Other Voice

After weeks of staying at home, my soul feels like dry bones on an old corpse. The desert is my dwelling place and I am more parched than ever. I long for life, for connection, and for community.

The news reports tell me to be afraid, to stay at home, and to be socially distant. And so, like many Americans, I’m afraid, I stay at home, and I am socially distant. However, I wonder what psychological and spiritual toll social distancing will take. Is separation the answer to health and well being? We are in the midst of the greatest social experiment of our time. While Zoom is a wonderful tool, it can’t replace the presence and warmth of a human being. So I wonder, how much more social distancing can the souls of Americans take?

God Has Left the Building

Old Church, Steeple, Old, Church, Architecture

As our churches lay empty and dormant, I wonder if God has left the building. We certainly have. An eerie picture comes to mind similar to Europe where abandoned and repurposed churches dot the countryside. Will the American church survive? Or, will a post-Christian movement begin in this country after COVID-19? At the same time, I wonder if we really know what the church is without the building. Do we know who we are without the safety of our walls?

The players in the war on the corona virus are the doctors, scientists, and infectious disease experts. They throw around acronyms and phrases like R naught (R0), which is the average number of people who will contract a contagious disease from one person with that disease, TTI (transfusion-transmissible infections), PPE (we all know what this means!), and shelter in place. the president and governors hold press conferences and give out executive orders. The health care workers, nurses and doctors, grocery store workers, mailmen and women, and delivery drivers continue their work tirelessly led by the voices of science and fear. And the rest of us wait, like sheep, clueless and dependent.

I wonder what the church’s position is in all of this? Mostly, I hear silence. Conformity for the most part, and silence. How are we as Christians supposed to view this global crisis? What is our role in what God is doing in the midst of it all? Could there be another voice, or should we just take what we see on the news as gospel?

The Gospel of Science and Statistics

Across the country people are dying alone in hospital beds. Is this ever okay? And with the isolation that is more deadly than any disease, the souls of the masses are dying at home.

In human history, crazier things have happened than a pandemic, just crack open the Bible. The Old Testament is full of stories of crazy things happening. In fact, He gave us His Word for such a time as this. Are we as Christians looking to this source of life and encouragement for hope and answers? Or, have we abandoned the Good Book for the media full of science, statistics, and fear.

The older I get, the more questions I have and the less answers I realize there are. One thing I do know, however, is that we need each other. And we need each other like we need food and water. The encouragement we give to one another gives our soul life. In community, we inspire others and they inspire us. We pour what spiritual strength and fire we have into one another in the name of Jesus. But, what happens if we no longer can?

Different, but the Same

I have been starved for Godly community and desperately longing to hear the voice of God anywhere, or from anyone. In the midst of talking with a friend recently, I felt a tinge of life in me, a drop of water in the desert. Something, somewhere in me was awakened. A small blip on the heart monitor of my life. Why? Because I heard a different voice, a God whisper, if you will. She reminded me that while everything has changed, nothing has changed. While it feels like our world is falling apart, God is the same and our future in Him is secure.

At the same time, Satan’s role in this world is also the same. Satan’s most effective strategy in taking down God’s people has always been to divide and conquer. With all of this social distancing, are we playing right into his hands? I don’t presume to know the answers, but people of faith need to be having these conversations. What does God want us to do in this pandemic? What would Jesus do about social distancing? Will we trust God’s voice over science and statistics? We need to be asking these questions lest we risk being led astray.

Christians are still the light of the world. I am concerned about the focus of the Christian community in our current reality. Are we any different than non Christians? I believe the Christian community is dangerously close to becoming of the world. We have been set apart. We must remember who we are and shine the light of Christ in this dark world.

You have been set apart as holy to the LORD your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure. Deuteronomy 14:2

In addition to keeping abreast of the situation, I am going to start listening to other voices, to Godly voices. I am going to pay attention to the words I use and the conversations I am having. Are they 100% about the virus and its consequences? I admit, like anyone, I have been consumed with this pandemic. Let’s return together to being consumed by an amazing God who adores us and is still on His throne.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK138223/

https://www.healthline.com/health/r-nought-reproduction-number#meaning

Half Empty AND Half Full

Image result for coronavirus quarantine

The world’s gone mad. My husband and I went to the Starbucks up the road yesterday. It was empty and all the tables and chairs were put away. The sight of it was like a punch in the gut. With every day that passes, the landscape of our lives is changing. I never thought our country would be in this position. None of us did.

Yesterday I went to Target and Kroger and I could feel the weight of stress in the air. As I looked around at the few people shopping, I could sense the fear and shell shock. People would pass by and look at each other, but not know what to do. We all knew we needed to stay apart, but we also felt drawn to each other. The isolation is taking its toll.

The normal, comfortable life we once took for granted is gone. What will the next few days bring? The next few weeks? Months? No one knows. We are in uncharted territory. Our blessed society is in crisis. And when you think about it, we were due. Part of me thinks this is right where God wants us. Primed for learning, listening, and growth. Primed for depending on Him. God is good and we will get through this. But, how we get through this is another issue. Will we learn? Will we grow? Will we grieve the losses we may endure? Personally, I hope that I come through this with dignity and a hopeful attitude. However, feeling and expressing grief, fear, and helplessness are also a healthy part of the process.  

In uncertain times, it is important to remember that the glass is half empty and it is half full. The glass can never be just one or the other. A half full glass is also half empty and a half empty glass is also half full. Life is scary and uncertain. Life is also wonderful and full of blessings. To have highs, we must also have lows, lest we flat-line. We must feel our feelings, not avoid them. Don’t be ashamed to cry, vent, and acknowledge the uncomfortable situation we find ourselves in. It sucks. Cry out to God. He hears us. He sees us. He knows us. And he knows what we need.

Social Distancing not Social Isolation

While we all love it, technology has often been viewed as the enemy. It is a constant battle for parents to protect their children and regulate its use. However, what has been seen as the enemy in many ways in our society, is now our lifeline. Bizarre, isn’t it?! Studies have shown that social media fosters disconnection. It’s time to flip technology around. We must create a different kind of online community, one that leads to connection. The following is an excerpt from a paper I recently wrote for grad school.

God created human beings to exist in the context of relationships. Only within community can we achieve mental and emotional health. Humans were created for three levels of community. The first and most basic level is proximity. This is the space of physically being around and next to people. This includes working at Starbucks, going to a football game, or sitting in church. We all need people in our environments and our space. The next level is that of friendship and interaction. This level consists of people we know and interact with, such as our coworkers, family, friends, and neighbors. Most people who go to school or work outside of the home at least reach this level. However, very few venture beyond these often shallow relationships to the third level. The third and richest level of community is spiritual community. It is the leading of the Holy Spirit that sets this level of community apart (Crabb, 1999). In the power of the Holy Spirit, we celebrate and see the good in one another. We hope, dream, and grow together. Here we experience the safety of celebration, the hope of vision, the wisdom of loving discernment, and the power of touch (Crabb, 1999). However, this type of community requires brokenness and vulnerability. For this reason, spiritual community is rare. God created us to experience all three levels of community, unfortunately, very few of us ever do.

During this time of national crisis and mandated social distancing, isolation is the next critical threat. Pre crisis, the majority of people had the first and second levels of community. Again, pre crisis, most people interacted with at least a handful of people on a daily basis. Now, with social distancing, the bottom has dropped out of even the most basic level of community, which is proximity

We must use technology to connect and engage with each other. Is it possible to engage while texting? Is it possible to engage while commenting or liking someone’s post? Maybe. However, I often struggle even with texting in group chats. I usually can’t keep up, so I opt out. And I know I’m not alone. I really believe that online face-to-face interactions will be our salvation. While we can’t meet together in the same physical space, we need to have online group gatherings. Regardless of the state of things, I need to see your face and you need to see mine.

Practicing social distancing to the extent that schools, churches, and other gatherings are canceled is absolutely the right thing to do. Our best strategy is for everyone to stay home. However, we must not lose touch with each other in the most connecting and relational ways possible. We must get creative and be intentional. Try online chatting with your group of friends or church small group. Stay in touch with your people. Get as close to face-to-face with your people as you can. We must care for our friends and neighbors, especially those who may be more vulnerable. We must work together on a community level to make sure that everyone has their needs met. Take care of yourself and those around you. Practice self-care and be smart. Don’t isolate yourself. And ask for help if you need it.

2 Critical Connecting Resources

A beautiful friend of mine (love you Laura), recently introduced me to Marco Polo. This app has been life giving. Now I can interact with my friends and family almost live on my phone. And its really easy. For now, this resource is so much better than texting. Look for it in the app store.

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/marco-polo-stay-in-touch/id912561374

Zoom is a great resource for video conferencing. And it is free.

https://www.pocket-lint.com/apps/news/151426-what-is-zoom-and-how-does-it-work-plus-tips-and-tricks

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Crabb, L. (1999). The Safest Place on Earth: Where People Connect and Are Forever Changed. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group.

Hope in the age of violence; How should Christians respond to the terror and violence in our country and around the world?

As I was watching Dr. Oz and folding laundry last Wednesday afternoon, ‘Breaking News’ cut in to the station just as the show was ending.

‘Uh, oh,’ I thought. The live video appeared.

It was an all too familiar scene: a public place filled with cop cars and police officers in tactical gear; people lined up coming out of buildings with their hands in the air; paramedics and people on stretchers filling the streets.

What happened in San Bernadino, California is tragic. I can’t imagine the grief and sorrow the families must be going through. Not to mention the fear that the community must be experiencing.

My heart breaks when I hear the story of a school, a mall, or another ‘soft’ target under attack. Those intent on hurting people seem to be targeting common people who were just going about their business. When they got up to go to work that day, they had no idea it would be their last.

I have tried to imagine what I would be feeling if a mass shooting happened in my town. How would I process it?

How would I be feeling if the Wal-mart five minutes from my house was on the news because a shooter was gunning down people there; or, an office building along US-31; or, my church just down 146th street; or, the Regal 17 movie theater where I recently saw Jurassic World.

It could happen anywhere.

To be honest, I don’t know how to feel about another tragedy. I am torn between being filled with  compassion and sympathy and feeling annoyed and angry. I am worn out with tragedy. The whole country is, I suspect.

It seems as though about every week or two we hear about another shooting. In the previous week it was a shooting in Texas. I can still see the face of the gunman with wild hair and a crazed look in his eyes.

And before that was the attack on Paris.

I remember Columbine so many years ago. It was April 20th, 1999. 12 students and 1 teacher were killed after a couple students went on a violent rampage. It was this nation’s first big school shooting where students were killed, at least in recent history.

Our nation was so naive and innocent up until that fateful day.

Gone are the days of feeling like our kids are safe when we send them to school. Gone are the days of feeling safe going to work or to the mall or to a movie or to a concert. Gone are the days when we could drop our kids off at college and know that they would be safe.

Gone is the innocence of the ‘wonder years’ in this country.

Maybe, we as a country were ignorant. ‘Ignorance is bliss,’ they say. Little did we know how drastically our country would change in the decades to come.

I remember the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20 children and 6 adults were killed. It crushed me to my core. I know many people across the nation experienced the same sorrow.

How can this happen?
How could someone hurt little children? . . . . practically babies?!
What is wrong with people?!

And then there is terrorism. The violence in Paris is a sobering reminder that it is not just the U.S. that is under attack, it is the whole world.

No one is safe anymore. Maybe we never were.

So, what do we do with all of this? How am I as a Christian supposed to react to these events? How is the body of Christ supposed to answer to the societal woes of the day?

We could . . . .

  • become depressed and cynical
  • become paranoid and paralyzed with fear
  • get up in arms about politics and foreign policy
  • stick our heads in the sand and pretend these events aren’t happening

As followers of Christ, we cannot let these events make us depressed or cynical. Why? Because we have too great a hope in Jesus Christ our Lord. We have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb! That has not changed, nor will it ever. No matter what we see on the news.

They can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.   Luke 20:36

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.   Hebrews 10:23

We need to show the world that our God is still the Lord of the universe. He is still The Creator, The Healer, The Comforter, The Lover of souls, and the Great I AM. He is unchanging. What a great comfort that is!

“I the Lord do not change”   Malachi 3:6

Neither can we be gripped by fear. God is still on His throne. And He is still the Lord over all.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
   do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
   I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.   Isaiah 41:10

He tells us not to be afraid–He’s got this! The world may fall apart, but we are His, and nothing can touch us.

For in the day of trouble
   He will keep me safe in his dwelling;
He will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
   and set me high upon a rock.  Psalm 27:5

Some are called to stand up and work the political/governmental system to bring about change and solutions. God bless those people. I am not one of them.

Those who are, must guard against appearing self-righteous. We don’t have all the answers, so let’s not pretend that we do.

And, for the world’s terrorism and violence, there may not be clear answers. In fact, I am quite sure there aren’t. At least not ones that will likely satisfies us.

God warned us of the trouble to come on this earth. We shouldn’t be surprised.

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.   Matthew 24:6-8

Nor can we just ignore the situation. We must show love and compassion when tragedy strikes. The parable of the good Samaritan tells us that we cannot just walk on by.

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.   Philippians 2:4

Therefore, I won’t become depressed and cynical. I won’t give in to fear. And, I won’t stick my head in the sand.

So, what is a Christian to do?

The answer is never far from the old rugged cross. Where Christ paid the ultimate price.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,Holy Bible And Rosary Beads
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown.

The answer lies in knowing who the true victor is. We know how this thing ends. God wins in the end. And God is good. Therefore, good wins!

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 15:57

They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings   Revelation 17:14

We must ask ourselves → “What is God calling me to do in response to the events of the last few weeks?”

Pray. Sometimes that’s all we can do.

I pray when I don’t know what else to do. I pray when there seems to be no answers. I pray when I need the comfort of a loving Father.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

Our God is a big God. He is way bigger than anything that happens on earth. He has overcome the world! Halleluiah!! Nothing is too big for our God.

Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,  Jeremiah 32:17

Remember this Christmas season that we have good news of a great joy! For all the evils of the world, a baby was born. A Savior, that is Christ the Lord! Because of His great sacrifice and love for us, the things of this world no longer have power over us. Amen!

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.   Luke 2:10-11