This Pandemic

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At first it was kind of like a snow day. A little euphoria, our Spring break extended. School was put off, then cancelled for the rest of the year. It felt like a small taste of retirement. Hey, I had free time to do all the things I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. And books. I had books. Then the library closed. And our favorite places of business. The sidewalks emptied. And people got this virus here in the States and some died. It got more real.

Time stretched on, and I discovered to my surprise that I really liked Suduko. Easter came and went and it was nothing like any Easter we ever had, because there wasn’t one. Of course in the biggest sense there was. And maybe because of the way the world  was this year, the Resurrection felt even more meaningful because the life as we all knew it here had kind of died.

One day we found ourselves in an unbelievably long line (seniors only) at Costco. People pushed their carts Zombie- like, masked and unmasked alike. The line undulated like a snake around and around the parking lot. We all shuffled along looking a little bewildered. We got behind a talker in a tank top, adjusting his mask between words all through the line.

I think it was around day 28 of lockdown that it all came crashing in for me. A kind of bleak despair. It stopped being fun many days ago. The endless rules, and the endless news. The not knowing what or who to believe. As someone who is a bit on the antisocial spectrum of reclusiveness anyway this was coming too naturally for me and I didn’t want to surrender to it.

I can’t help wondering how many families and businesses will still be intact when this is all a memory? I hope and pray they will come back stronger than ever. As for me, I’m ready for open signs and full parking lots. I’m ready to actually go to church (maybe without the shaking hand part.)

Despite all this, there has been good. I think we have remembered how to be kinder and help each other out like good neighbors used to. Trips to the grocery store for those home bound have turned into reconnaissance missions.  Just taking a short drive has felt like being sprung from prison or military leave.

Something of this time I hope will remain. The forbidden luxury of hugs and closeness that I don’t want to take for granted anymore. The rhythm that is life has slowed for us all and that’s a good thing. But while slowing is good, stopping is not.

It’s time to get back to business because this is hurting us in more ways than one. Americans were meant to thrive, it’s what we were built on. So let’s wear our masks, wash our hands, and get to work. It’s time. Quarantine the ones who are sick and let the rest of us live.

Let freedom ring again.

A World in Pause Mode

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Life has been suspended and I can’t help feeling that for once, on this day it feels right. I remember as a kid when things closed and everyone flocked to church at noon on Good Friday. I also remember being glad when it was rainy or cloudy because that also seemed right on this day of days.

“Oh Jesus, what you went through so that we could have forever with You. When the shadow of the cross fell it reached all the way to Heaven and even silenced the Angels. They had never seen the Father hide His face from the Son. Ever. But that day was unlike any other day that will ever happen again.”

This shutdown has not been without benefit, in every adverse situation the good arises like a sweet perfume. The weeds grow along with the seeds, it’s just that the weeds are visible right away. But the good seeds are working their magic down below where we can’t see.  I believe we will have a lasting benefit from this time.

We will remember the quiet times, the books we read. The times spent talking, learning new games, getting to know each other again. Maybe all this family time, cooking and eating together, stretching our imaginations and praying more will have a lasting effect. Not to mention going a little bit crazy. 

What I’ve been learning from all this is what I have taken for granted, the simple little things. I have always been a person who has been intentional about not doing this and yet, I have realized that to some extent, I have. Who ever thought hugging someone we love would feel like a luxury, a risk, something forbidden.

Each morning. I have tried to go outside at first light and celebrate a little resurrection. I close my eyes and concentrate on all the noises I hear. It’s a blessing to have these mornings at home. Not having to get ready for anything. Downtime. Then there’s the downside.

Honestly some days it feels a little bit like the shadow of death is hovering all around us. Seeing loved ones only from a distance. Not being able to go, to help, to do. So close, so far away.

I’m thankful I have had someone (thank you E) to laugh and cry with during all this. It’s been a blessing to help those in our circle who are alone. 

I’m reminded in Scripture that this is only a light and momentary affliction. The other side of eternity stretches much further than we can see right now, but it’s still there, waiting for us. Because of the horrible, awfulness Jesus went through for us. Because He loves us.

The Trinity worked a beautiful plan my friends, and we can all partake of it. This pandemic will pass, but what will not pass is the empty tomb. It stands open and glowing with hope. Today we remember how our Savior was battered and bloody beyond recognition but on Sunday we remember how Satan was defeated.

Death has indeed lost its sting. Again. Thanks be to God.

Waiting for normal

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In every crisis situation there is a paradigm shift. You look around at your world and it’s different. The birds are still singing, flowers are still in bloom. The hummingbirds still come to the feeder and the geese still honk their way through the sky. Nature never stops. But we’ve stopped. That is, what we always thought of normal has stopped.

I’m sitting here waiting for the 7 o clock train, “Soft Hands” we call the conductor, because he does soft little puffs on the horn. I wait with an over-exaggerated impatience. It feels a little bit like panic, which I know is ridiculous but I want to hear it because that feels normal. But he doesn’t come. It’s 7:32 and I wonder where he is.

I feel a sense of unreality like the day after 9/11 when there were no planes overheard. Trying to describe it to my Aunt, I said, “I feel like the rapture came and we were left behind, but I know that’s not true.

It’s like a Stephen King novel that we’re all playing a part in. The other day we stood in the Geezer line at Costco to get supplies for my folks and Aunt Mayvis and it was like the zombie apocalypse. Gloved, masked elders (us among them) shuffled forward, hundreds of us towards the door. We waited over an hour.

A local nurse has passed away from the virus and now his wife tested positive. And an employee of one of our favorite wineries also tested positive.

And no one knows quite what to do. Our homes have become bunkers. The downtown area is quiet. Schools are closed for the rest of the year. They made that announcement yesterday. And yet, people are finding creative ways to stay in touch.

Writing letters, notes, leaving food on porches. And speaking of porches…..I have seen actually seen people sitting on their porches again. There will be some good to come out of this. Never again will I take hugs for granted. I will hug a little harder after this. Maybe we all will. I believe good always comes during times like this. Even as my heart aches to physically hold my folks and family close. 

Maybe when we finally leave this new normal behind, our old normal will feel like new again. Once more my friends, we will stand close, breathe each other’s air without fear, enjoy each other’s company, have community. It will be a little like being born again. And the sooner we do what we have to now, the sooner we can get back to that.

Easter will be different this year but one thing is for sure. Nothing can stop the King from coming, again and again into our lives.

As I drove Downtown these past few weeks I’ve been thinking lately of the words to that old Gaither song, The King is Coming:

The Marketplace is empty

No more traffic in the streets

All the builders tools are silent

No more time to harvest wheat

Busy housewives cease their labor

In the courtroom no debate

Work on earth has been suspended

As the King comes thro’ the gate…..

Even so come Lord Jesus…….we need you, our world needs you.

 

Songwriters: Charles Millhuff, Gloria Gaither, Bill Gaither

 

 

 

It’s still Lent

One good thing about all this rushing about, worrying about this virus, being selective about where we go and listening for new updates is that sooner or later we get tired of all that. We settle in, we tune out, we get creative about the things we can do instead of what we can’t.

And when we stop, something very Holy happens. We start paying attention to other things. We start talking more, we find closeness of a different kind. It looks like calling people. We are checking on each other more. We are remembering what it looks like to be a true neighbor.

Nothing like a pandemic to bring us closer. To make us realize we are all really one big family across the globe. 

The most important things are still ours. It’s still Lent. Just underneath all the hubbub is a Spiritual pulse that beats stronger than ever. It’s the 25th Day of Lent. We are still leading up to the horrible awful (Good Friday) and the unbelievably wonderful (Easter).

And the best thing of all, is that in every challenge, every crisis we hear the thunderous echo of His last words. Those last words that changed everything, made restoration between God and man possible again. “It is Finished.”

That means everything is still possible. God is with us. I think the phrase I love most in the 139th Psalm is:

Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. That one wiggles me every time.

Use this time my friends, for the good. Get outside where we can still go, marvel at nature. Learn something new. I was challenged with Suduko. I was always afraid of it but Elaine was patient. She kept telling me I could do it and now I find it extremely relaxing. She did scold me when I was talking out loud trying to figure it out. She said the rule of Suduko is the silent working of numbers. I laughed.

This morning I walked down to the river and watched the tops of the trees fill with light. I also saw the two wood ducks greeting each other. Two “V”s in the water merging as they traveled together.

And God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning–the sixth day. Genesis 1:31

As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. Genesis 8:22

Peace, I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27

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So yesterday was the first day of my two weeks off school. And it was one of those “perfect” days. My mood was buoyant, like a ship sail catching the wind. I read “Before We Were Yours” through 3 cups of coffee and then took a walk through the nearby neighborhood. Only a very few walkers were about. 

There was a gentle rain that started later in the day and that made everyone happy because it’s so needed. It was one of those magical March days I remember from growing up here. All of the fruit trees around town are in flower. Popcorn in shades of pink and white. Then the wind comes and it rains blossoms and you feel like you are inside a Haiku. The real rain comes and the poor daffodils try so very hard not to bow to the ground with the weight of the water.

Good News! We finally found an elliptical that was in really good shape not too far away so we put all the seats down in the car and drove to get it. Once there we wrangled it into the back with one bungy cord and packing tape. I climbed in the back and held onto it the whole way home. It wasn’t going anywhere.

I felt like we really pulled something off and we did. This thing sells new for $600-$800 and we got this one barely used for $200. I feel 15 pounds lighter already.

Now it’s the next evening, Sunday. I have felt off all day. Not like the “Golden Yesterday” But it’s still good. Part of what happens in this life. Some days you just feel off, like the stillness before an earthquake or a tornado. You brace yourself for something but you don’t know what it is. 

But this is the wonderful and weird thing. All day, and I mean literally ALL day, this Mockingbird has been singing and I feel like it is trying to sing me through the day. And this is what God does. He tells us that we will always be okay by giving us little signs. If this bird can sing all day, then I figure he must be right.

There is something to sing about, always.

A breath between life

 

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How long we wait,  with minds as quiet as time…..Thomas Merton 

It took half a day or so to work its magic, the sea. I tossed and turned the first night, rolling thoughts over and over like the waves themselves. The next morning I let the beach release me from all that was troubling. I let myself fall under the spell of the sound of the surf, rolling, crashing and thunderous. 

I marvel once again at a Creator who would put so many mile markers right in front of us for us to find Him, thankful that He reveals Himself to me this way.

I remember when I was a kid, how that first glimpse of the straight blue line of that body of water against the horizon filled me with an excitement I could barely contain. Like an old friend it beckoned. Then, it was all the other stuff mixed in too. The Boardwalk, the Merry Go Round, the Taffy window. Now, I need only the sand under my feet and that pounding relentless surf.

Some say it’s just gravity that keeps it from flowing onto the earth, but I know the voice, the power behind it all. There was a time Job had questions and God had answers. All of us at some point have questions attached to our grief, our suffering. I ask why my Mom has to navigate her way through this betrayal of her memories. She remembers when remembering brought comfort.  Now her memories have turned against her; reminding her of all she has misplaced.

But the most important thing is she still knows the answers and so do I. Some things we just won’t understand this side of Heaven. She still knows her God and that He is supremely good and that never wavers for her. As she told me yesterday, “She still belongs to God. He still holds her.”

I walk and walk. And I let the surf wash over my inner soul. The deep place where the Holy Spirit rests in the quiet. I hear God’s reply with each step. And it’s all the answers I need. 

Who enclosed the sea with doors when bursting forth, it went out from the womb; when I made a cloud its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors, and I said, Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop? Job 38:8-11

Yes, the sea has worked its magic once again. We are blessed to be able to come back to this place. This peaceful place that has come to seem like home. Doubly blessed to have someone to share this leg of my journey with. 

I Choose Happy

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That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: A farmer went out to sow his seed……” Matt. 13: 1-3

There is a little kitchen towel I have. It used to be very bright orange and sunny yellow. Because of my old bug yellow will always be a happy color for me. On it are printed the words, “Choose Happy.” Lately there have been things pressing in on me. School starting again, the future, the transitory nature of where we are living, Mom’s illness.

And currently we are facing a homeless/drug element in our town. Transients are camping by the river and there are pictures of feces and you name it on the shore. They clean it up periodically and then they all come back. That has made me extremely upset and restricted my activities on the river this summer. I’ve been wondering why the environmentalists so prevalent in our state are not coming out of the woodwork on this issue. I feel robbed. Cheated.

The thief (Satan) comes only in order to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they (we) may have life and have it in abundance. John 10:10

Everything in this world was set in motion and created by God. Perfectly in balance. The effects of sin have tarnished it. The evidence is all around us. Jesus came to counteract the eternal result of that destruction.  He also makes it possible to supersede all the negativity around us and still embrace life, and beauty, and hope and joy. We don’t have to let the world steal it. It is a choice we have.

It was with that attitude I awoke yesterday morning with a defiant stubbornness to  “Choose Happy.” I shook out the towel from the cabinet, hung it up and claimed Jesus promise. I took it into my heart and prayed it as a mantra all day. And you know what? My attitude changed.

This morning I walked down to the river and saw the magnificent beauty that was there all along. A gift of joy returned. I choose life. I choose gratitude for where we are now. I choose thankfulness for the beautiful message my Mom left me on the phone. That she loves me and glad that I am her daughter.

You see, when I read the parable of the sower and the soil today I realized that while the seed started out good, it was the conditions of the ground it fell into that varied. Each day we are given a choice and each day we live for Christ the choice can only be life. Because He died and rose again to give it to us.

It’s an old old story, but one I never get tired of telling.

Be at peace with your life my friends. He’s got this. He’s got you.