Tag Archives: Pandemic

Surprising times challenge faith, Redefine today’s lifestyle, goals

How many times do we experience something in our lives and we cannot believe what just happened?  Maybe it was a near accident, maybe it was a health issue, maybe it was a work achievement.  Afterwards, we just walk away and marvel at the outcome.

Maybe we are in the midst of another amazing experience.  I know that the coronavirus has forced our daily lives to come grinding to a halt, wait a bit, and now we are trying to restart.  And that restarting process is almost more frightening than the shutdown has been.

None of us can predict what the future will look like, but one thing for sure it is will never be the same.  And I am not sure, but I am betting we have learned valuable lessons and should not even consider returning to life as usual.

As an observer, I am witnessing major lifestyle changes that I believe demonstrate a hunger for healthier balances in our priorities.  In my neighborhood, I watch families out walking together.  Not just one family, but a variety of families, some walking through the neighborhood just to add more steps in their walk.   I see pets with their owners that I never recognized before.  

Having been an at-risk teacher, I knew broken family units and the resulting damage more than I saw family units who supported one another in all types of endeavors.  Watching the family units join together for time outdoors without all the fanfare associated with sports is a heart-warming experience.

This pandemic is forcing family units to redefine themselves.  The stay-at-home orders have made the decision for many that society seemed to want but battled against due to the cultural expectations of two adults working away from the home while the kids were in school or in a day-care setting.

A spinoff adjustment has been to the work force.  Maybe the first evidence of needed/forced change was in education.  All the sudden schools closed their doors.  With many schools that literally closed down the school year after just three quarters, not the typical four.

This abrupt change not only forced the students to stay home, but it forced schools to rethink how to teach.  It placed the onus on the parents to see that their children continued in their studies while the teachers scrambled to find ways to provide instruction away from the classroom.

Education must place the needs of the students before anything else.  I will never forget attending an ASCD regional meeting and listening to the head of Iowa’s state education department.  Instead of worrying about how to hold teachers and districts accountable to a process or a set of standards, he said they had only one guideline:  What is best for the student?

Notice, it is student, not studentS.  Education as we know it is education for the masses.  If a student could not fit into the norm, then they failed.  If they were excelling and failing, they likely were bored with school and needed to accelerate rather than ‘fit into the norm.’  

The stay-at-home directive has shifted the methods of education to one-on-one instruction.  The Zoom meetings can be refined to individual tutorials or small groups or to a full class.  The younger students seem to be adapting well as they sit in front of the camera and talk one-to-one with the teacher.  They are learning.

And between the Zoom sessions, the parents are there tutoring the kids.  They are providing the encouragement, connecting with the teachers right alongside their children.  Many parents are learning their students interests and talents for the first time and discovering ways to enrich their educational experience on their own.

Granted, for many young people, the stay-at-home directive has had the complete opposite.  They are forced into a home where abuse, addictions, and hunger exist.  For these students, there is no education, there is only fear and danger.

How does our culture handle the pandemic crisis for these at-risk students?  These are the students who need the daily sanctuary of school so now is the time to redesign the educational system to meet the critical needs of the at-risk who cannot depend on a family structure to nurture them into adulthood.

Where does a society turn to find new direction?  

The pandemic protocols are forcing all institutions to reassess their basic foundational beliefs.  The hospitals are rewriting how they treat patients–and they are treating them in solitude without the very critical emotional support of family and friends. 

Business are learning that work can be more productive if workers are at home, away from the office.  Work weeks are being redefined by work production.  Priorities are readjusted to support the families with children in the home.

Hopefully businesses are learning that the almighty dollar is no longer the guiding principle.  Now the guiding principle is protecting the human assets of the company.  Valuing the employees above the profit margin will lead to a healthier society.

Our society was at-risk when the coronavirus started its race around the world.  Our sense of elitism blinded us to the reality and the risks that were stretching across the oceans to reach us.  We were so busy finding the easiest way to amass wealth.  We were sacrificing the foundational principles that created our culture.

The one constant in my life, and I expect in many lives is my faith.  I know that the history of mankind has experienced pandemics before.  I know that change is a guarantee.  But as I have lived, experienced, and studied history, the one common thread throughout all cultures is faith.

My faith system is based on the principles of Jesus Christ who as the son of man and the son of God walked among the human race demonstrating and teaching how to live in harmony with one another.

One simple rule:  Love on another as we want to be loved.

Now, in the midst of stay-at-home directives, of social distancing, of economic crisis, this one principle can guide us through the storm.  Love one another as you want to be loved.

True, the sudden changes in our society even affect the way we do church.  We cannot open the sanctuaries to host a worship service in the same manner we were accustomed to doing.  We cannot sing our hymns together; now we must don a mask.  We cannot pass the communion cup or break off a piece from the main loaf of bread.  We cannot find our favorite seat next a dear friend.  

What the church can do is to teach, to worship, to serve one another in any way that it can so all may know Jesus.  We can give whatever we can to assure that others have the basic necessities in life–food, clothing and shelter.  We can reach out to one another through phone calls, hand-written notes, texts, emails, or any other viral means of communication.

We do not know what tomorrow will look like, but I am confident that with faith in God and in living the life Jesus modeled for us, we will discover that life does not have to be what always has been.  We will find that being the church is doing all the good we can in any way we can for whomever we can, whenever we can.

Let’s keep the focus on the positives this pandemic can provide.  Let’s follow the recommendations of the scientists, the specialists, and the doctors.  Let’s allow families to be families first.  Let’s redesign our world so put God first, then we put loving one another like we want to be loved.

Schools will continue, but education will be different.  

Businesses will continue, but the design and the workforce will be different.

Government will remember that it is for the people and by the people.

And churches will be an active force meeting the needs of one another through one principle:  Love one another as you want to be loved.  

Let’s leave the past in the past and surge forward to a new and better world.

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Life during the pandemic: The pain of it all hits home But look at all the good, too

     Today is Palm Sunday.  And today I will sit in my living room and watch the service on Facebook.  I will be watching the work of our tech team, our pastor, our music team, and myself.  

     We worked this week, reporting to the sanctuary at different times, to video tape all the elements of the service to be pieced together and posted to our Facebook page this morning–scheduled to air at 9:30 AM.  

     We had to cancel the order for the palms that traditionally are handed out during the service, added to the kids’ time, and laid on the altar.  Not using them this year.  Granted there are several pastors and churches and craft-lovers who are finding dozens of ways to share the palms in new and different ways, but the pandemic protocols has taken away the traditions, the normalcy, the human touch. 

     There is pain in these days.  We are feeling the emotional pain of change.  We are feeling the numbing sense of loneliness.  We are feeling disheveled without the usual daily routines–not to mention the fear of even being infected by COVID-19.

      But as real as the pain is during this insanity, there are so many new and exciting experiences, changes, and inventions developing as a direct result of the forced restrictions in our lives.

     First, look at what is happening to our churches, switching almost instantly to streaming worship services through Facebook, the YouTube channel, or their own web pages.  The skills were not already in place for many, but we learn and grow.

     Second, schools suddenly lost the classrooms.  Teachers cannot depend on the one-on-one contact in person, now they are learning how to use the virtual resources to do the same thing.  This is probably more difficult for the elementary teachers, but I remember how I needed help with high school math.  Losing the contact with the teachers is forcing educators to rethink virtually every facet of teaching.

     Consider our family structures, too.  Our culture finds households dependent on two incomes, we encourage mothers to be professionals in the work force.  This has led our society to step away from the core family roles.  Now families are forced to restructure what their daily family life is, especially since so many have been sent home to work or forcing them into unemployment.

     The list grows of all the ways the pandemic is forcing us to create new ways to manage our lives.  Oddly enough, there is so much good that is developing from this crisis.

     Sadly, the forced changes do create pain.  Yesterday I felt that pain personally.  As our state shut down, I had to make a decision.  I had to decide whether I could do something I felt passionate about doing to support my own family, or whether I had to close the door and become one step more isolated.

     I am amazed how a virus can spread completely around the globe and affect me so personally even when I still have no contact with someone infected or have no health issues.  

     My roles clash–wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, and pastor–when decisions have to be made under these conditions.  It is personally painful today; but I am part of a community that has grown from the 1970s rural world of family farms to a global community where influences from the farthest reaches of the globe can be delivered right to your own door.

     This morning, after hours of tears and misery from submitting to another restriction separating me from the very grandmother, teacher role I loved, I have gotten up, fed the pets, taken a shower and dressed for a full day–makeup and hair, too.  The weather has improved, the trees are leafing out, and it is a new day.

     In a few moments, I will switch over from the news, open Facebook on the smart TV, and join in Palm Sunday worship.  The good is winning over the pain.  The changes are going to force new normal patterns in our life.  We witness the outpouring of love as our communities rally to support one another through the drive-by parades, the chalk talk on the walks, and the list grows.  

     The pandemic restrictions may be in place, but I believe the good will erase the pain. 

Please join me in prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

We may be in a winter of our human history,

But we are in the spring of your glorious world.

Let us look forward to the new world

As we struggle to manage under the virus.

Help us to see how we are all suffering 

And know we are never alone.

Thank you for strengthening our resolve,

For sharing in our pain,

For opening our mind to new ideas,

And for our family and friends

doing all they can to comfort and care for us.

Help us with our patience as this season passes

And a new season erupts before us.

Help us to join in the new and push aside the old.

Let us carry forth the lessons we learn

So the future remains welcoming and exciting.

We can do this with all the grace and mercy

You show us as modeled by your son Jesus Christ,

It is in your name, God our Father,

And in your son’s name, Jesus Christ,

And through the Holy Spirit, we pray.  Amen.

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Guess What I Saw!

Today is truly spring, and yesterday I discovered it at a time I really needed to find a breath of fresh air:

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I did not plant this jonquil here.  It is actually coming up with some wild onion that I have had before and cannot seem to get rid of.  

So I was genuinely surprised to discover this flower blooming in the midst of the cedar mulch under the deck. 

I needed this harbinger of spring because earlier that morning I had made the trek to Walmart in order to get my usual supplies.  I knew there were issues with stocking, but still what I found was a shock.  

There was no cereal except for less than a case of a couple of brands.  Only one box or two of instant oatmeal.

There was no rice!

There were very few cans of vegetables.

There was no toilet paper as I had heard and discovered from other outings the weekend before.

Finding items was a challenge because not only is our local Walmart managing the pandemic, it is also going through a major remodel, so everything is everywhere.

I left shaken.  

Throughout history humanity has faced crisis; we are not different.  And there really is no reason we should feel protected from a global pandemic as the world comes right into our homes if by no other means than videos. 

Then today, we took a long drive down to Truman Lake because it was sunny and pleasant.  We would not interact with other people just by taking a drive, so why not?

The fishermen were still out on their boats despite the near freezing temperatures.  The Sonic was delivering meals to the car windows as always.  And there were cars, well more pickups and SUVs, on the road.

The small towns were ironically the same as they always appear.  Even the little mom & pop restaurants seemed to be doing their normal lunch hour business.  I almost felt like we were outside of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) parameters.

We all need to look for the little reminders that God’s world is filled with his glory.  We need to see all the spring flowers popping out from the mud and grime of the wet, cold winter.  We need to see the families outside in their yards–together.  We need to hear the peepers as they announce spring.

And we all must realize that humanity is going to continue even though the going is extremely trying right now.

We must return to God’s scriptures and the story of how he joined us on earth as Jesus Christ, son of man and son of God.  

Easter may not be what we expect this year.  There may not be any worship service to attend.  The Easter outfits may not get to be worn on April 12 as planned.  The Easter Bunny may have to wait a bit before families and friends can get together.

But the good news is that God is good all the time and all the time God is good.  We just need to look for the good.  We need to hear how all the communities are finding new and inventive ways to love one another.  We need to consider what we can do, too.  

This Sunday, March 22, and the coming Sundays our churches are joining forces to fill the social media with church services.  There may be more people “in church” this week than ever before thanks to the technology and the social media that has developed.

Sharing the good news will be a breath of fresh air along the airwaves right alongside the news broadcasts.  Share with others in any way that you can the story of Jesus Christ.

Open up the computers, the tablets, the cell phones, and even the smart TVs and find the worship service of your own church or maybe someone else’s.  You can visit as many as you want this week and during the coming weeks.

I think the on-line church service and devotionals is much like finding the jonquil blooming in the most unexpected place in my yard.  May the services open up your heart and you experience the renewal of faith this first spring Sunday.

Please join me in prayer:

Dear God, 

Thank you for the gift of spring.

Be with your children around this world

     struggling with the angst filling today’s world.

Let us join together in worship

     in any way we can, wherever we can

     so we may experience 

     the joy of Christian community.

Guide us as we continue to move forward

     through these uncertain times.

     heal those who are sick;

     protect those who rush to their aid;

     and show us new and wonderful ways

     of loving one another 

     so all may experience the transformation 

     that comes when we accept Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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Living in midst of pandemonium

Our pastor’s Lenten series is titled “Confronting Evil” and each week he covers a specific topic.  First was bitterness, then betrayal, and third cynicism.  

As we experience the flood of information and the dramatic changes that the coronavirus has created, I am realizing how those individual topics can be translated into this very experience.

Though I have not experienced the virus yet, nor know anyone personally who has, I have to admit that I could understand that this virus is a 21st century evil–or at least can spiral us into a mindset that stirs up the very characteristics we might identify as un-Christian responses.

This week the series subtitle is “Putting Satan behind You.”  We cannot put the temptations or the emotions behind us in dealing with evil, we must address it.  We live in community, not isolation, therefore we confront a wide range of evils.

Using the Wesley Study Bible, I often read the sidebars.  Today as I read about Jesus confronting Satan during his 40 days in the wilderness, I noticed that one of Wesley’s core terms is ‘temptation’:

“. . . Wesley knew that temptation more often comes to us in subtle ways.  Our bodies are frail and subject to pain, which inevitably brings temptation.  The human environment in which we dwell is also a wellspring of temptation, and our character is constantly being formed and reformed by the influences, both moral and immoral, around us.  Sadly, believers who fall 

short of perfect love are also a source of temptation, for they are still in the grip of inward sin.  Their pride, jealousy, and other “unholy tempers” can provoke the same tempers in others. . . “(p. 1166)

As I read through this explanation, I realized that right now, today, in the midst of the global battle against a virus, we confront evil in how we manage even this event.  

As we confront the virus, be alert to the emotions that we must manage:  bitterness, betrayal, and cynicism.  We are humans who must rely on God even in the midst of a pandemic.

I close with verse 10 from Matthew 4:1-11 reading:

“Away with you Satan! for it is written,

     ‘Worship the Lord your God,

          And serve only him.’”

Even Jesus had to confront evil, but he lead by example and we should follow his model.  Let’s face the reality of a pandemic, but rely on God.  Serve one another in love in all the ways that you can following all the medical advice that you can.

Dear God,

Heal our bodies, minds, and souls

so we can fend off evil

and love one another

 with total abandon.   Amen.

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