Friday, March 27, 2020

Diary of a Pandemic. Safely Through Another Week.

"Safely through another week God has brought us on our way."*


We used to sing that hymn sometimes on Sunday mornings when I was a child. It's one of those we don't sing any more, but it came to mind this morning. We have made it through another week.


I'm thankful this morning that my husband and I are healthy, and that my family is all healthy. But this became very real and personal to me this week when two of our very dearest friends tested positive for Covid-19 and were hospitalized there in Tennessee where they live.


This has been a frustrating week. A week when we are all getting a little stir crazy. When we all have a bit of cabin fever. Even so, I am so unbelievably frustrated by people who carry on with life as usual, who don't stay home, who think this doesn't apply to them.


We are all in this together. And we all have to do our part. As one who in a high risk category, because of my age but also because of my health and my compromised immune system, I'm being extra careful. As should we all be.


This virus is no respecter of persons. And so we must all do our part.


Stay home. Please. If not for yourself, then for those you love.


It isn't easy. We all have to find ways to maintain contact with the outside world. We need to check on each other. Especially in these challenging times, a phone call or a text message can really brighten someone's day.


I don't know how long this will last. But when we make it through and come out on the other side, let's continue to encourage one another.


"And encourage one another day after day..." (Hebrews 3:13 NASB)




*"Safely through Another Week" - Newton/Mason

Monday, March 23, 2020

Pull The Rope

In these troublesome times, perhaps a word from Charles H. Spurgeon is in order. Spurgeon once said:


"Prayer pulls the rope down below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly; others give only an occasional jerk at the rope. But he who communicates with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously with all his might."                                             

What powerful words from this great preacher of days gone by! As the old hymn says, "oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer."

As we are navigating these uncharted waters, keep pulling the rope!

"Pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Friday, March 20, 2020

Diary of a Pandemic. Social Distancing Week One.

When I first heard about a virus in China, I really didn't think much about it. That was "there" and really didn't have anything to do with "here".


Even as people began to talk about it more, I still thought it didn't have anything to do with "here". With me.


I was wrong. This has touched us all in some way.


I'm not infected. I don't know anyone personally who is infected. Yet we are all affected.


Affected by disruption. By panic. By change. By fear - whether ours or someone else's.


I am not afraid. I am not afraid of getting sick. If I do get sick, either I will get well or I won't. If I get sick, I might die. But I am not afraid of dying.


The virus itself is not what bothers me. What I am more bothered by is the reactions to the virus. The panic buying. The hoarding. The media hype. I am very much a creature of habit, so disruptions to my routines are bothersome. But not impossible to deal with.


Yesterday I sat on my porch and listened to birds singing and felt the gentle breeze as I drank my coffee and began reading a good book. I enjoyed that so very much. Solitude is not always a bad thing.


This week has been a week of focused prayer. For all who have been affected, whether through illness or job loss or fear. Praying for pastors as they lead their congregations through these uncharted waters. Praying for the President and the Task Force. Praying for our country.


I have found myself wondering when - or if - we will ever be "normal" again. And I find myself hoping that when all this is over, we as a society will realize who the really important people - the real heroes - are. Not the professional athletes,  the actors, the professional celebrities. But the health care professionals, the truck drivers bringing food to grocery stores, the grocers, the farmers. Through all this, I hope we can learn that lesson.


We're in a new normal. This week, I'm staying home. Earlier in the week I had a couple of doctor appointments, which I kept. The cardiologist office was almost empty. When we arrived at the eye doctor's office, we had to be pre-screened by answering a health questionnaire. Only after we "passed" were we allowed to check in. As we were checking in, another woman arrived but was sent home when she said she had a cough. As we were leaving, I saw a woman having her temperature checked. Apparently it was ok, because she was allowed to stay.


We made a quick trip to Publix to pick up a few last minute necessities, hoping we would be able to find what we needed (we did). I was very impressed to see that Publix had one employee whose only job was to wipe down each shopping cart when it was returned from the lot, and to be sure that you had a clean, sanitized cart.


Life has been different this week. We're not sure what comes next. How long this will last. What else will change.


Life has changed. But somethings have not.


"For I, the Lord, do not change." (Malachi 3:6 NASB)


And so, I am not afraid.


"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in Thee."
(Isaiah 26:3 KJV)

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Nothing. Not Even...

What's on your mind this morning? Is it the frantic search for toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Is it being "trapped" in your own home, wondering how you are going to navigate schooling and providing food for your family and what will happen to your job?


We are in new territory these days. None of us has had to face a pandemic like Covid-19. We are all dealing with uncertainties and questions and concerns in a way we have not known before.


As I have been thinking about and praying over these things this morning, this is the passage the Lord brought to mind:


"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did; sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death; but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God......For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the Saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son......What shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?......Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?.....But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor  things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 8:1-8, 24-25, 28-29,31, 35, 37-39 NASB)




How thankful I am for that nugget of truth planted in this passage, the nugget that brought me such peace and comfort this morning.

Nothing can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus!

Nothing. 

Not financial challenges. 

Not health challenges.


Not the craziness in our world today.


Not even Covid-19.


Nothing.

Thank You, Jesus!


"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor  things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39 NASB)

Monday, March 16, 2020

Simply Trusting. That Is All.

Times are tough right now for a lot of people. If you aren't in the middle of a tough time, you probably know someone who is.

People are worried and stressed and fearful and feeling uncertain. About all sorts of things.

People are dealing with health issues of various kinds. A bad diagnosis. Facing tests and fearful of what the diagnosis will be. Trying to navigate insurance challenges.

There's unemployment. And underemployment. And nervousness about just how long the job will last. And will it be long enough. Worry that the job won't last until retirement.  Concern that when retirement comes, there won't be enough money.

There are bills to pay. And too much month at the end of the money.

There are broken relationships. There's stress and anger and frustration.
Add to that the chaos and craziness and uncertainty of COVID-19. Is it any wonder so many people are fearful? How do we deal with it all? How do we get through these tough times without falling completely apart?

We adjust our focus. Instead of fixing our attention on the circumstances, or on the television or social media, we fix our attention in a different direction. Look up.  "Fixing our eyes on Jesus....." (Hebrews 12:2 NASB)

We remember. Remember who God is. Call to mind the aspects of His character. Make a list of all the times and all the ways He has come to your aid, all the blessings He has showered on you. Remember how He has never forsaken you. "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits." (Psalm 103:2 ESV)

We trust. We fix our eyes on Jesus. We remember who He is and we remember all He has done. And we trust that He will continue to do that. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."  (Hebrews 13:8 ESV)

No matter what the circumstances of your life are today, no matter how stressed or upset or worried you might be, rest today in confident assurance that God is in control. None of your situation, or the world's situation, comes as a surprise to Him. He knows. He cares. And He's got it all under control. 

 

 "Simply trusting ev'ry day, Trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small, Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Trusting as the moments fly, Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate'er befall, Trusting Jesus, that is all."
 
(Trusting Jesus - words, Edgar Page Stites; music, Ira Sankey)
 
 

Friday, March 13, 2020

Today I Will...

Do you ever feel as though the world has gone crazy?

As if the incessant blah-blah-blah of the political season weren't enough, now the world has gone crazy because of a virus.

Put that on top of the regular stress and frustration that often characterize daily living, and it's all a bit more than we think we can deal with. I don't know about you, but in my stroke-recovery-world, all the stress and arguing and noise pollution of life cause me some stress. And now we're all afraid we're going to die because of a virus. It's a bit much.

So today, in the middle of the stress and uncertainty and frustration, I will remember:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you. (Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

The word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.  (Psalm 18:30 ESV)

You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head.  (Psalm 3:3 ESV)

Today, in the middle of the stress and uncertainty and frustration, I will trust:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:4 ESV)

Today, in the middle of the stress and uncertainty and frustration, I will give thanks:

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! 
(1 Chronicles 16:34 ESV)

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.  (Psalm 9:1 ESV)

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV)

Today, in the middle of the stress and uncertainty and frustration, I will not be afraid.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear." 
(Psalm 46:1-2a ESV)

Today, in the middle of the stress and uncertainty and frustration, I will praise God!

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. Oh, magnify the LORD with me and let us exalt his name together.  (Psalm 34:1,3 ESV)

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Celebrating Answered Prayer

Last week we celebrated the birthday of our firstborn son. But it was a celebration of much more than that. It was also a celebration of God's faithfulness. Each year when Brian's birthday comes around I am reminded once again of how God answers prayer.


You see, many years ago I was a young married woman who wanted very much to be a mother. Yet I remained childless. And month after month, as it became obvious that conception had not taken place and no baby was on the way, I became more and more despondent. Doctor's were not optimistic that I would ever conceive. My husband and I longed to be parents, but it seemed that was not going to happen. Doctors recommend we consider adoption.


During this challenging period of my life, I turned to the Scriptures and became very familiar with the story of Hannah. I had been familiar with Hannah since childhood, but back then my focus had always been on Samuel, the son God blessed Hannah with. As I think back on it now, perhaps we should have given Brian a different name - Samuel.


In 1 Samuel we read these words: "She (Hannah) was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly." (1 Samuel 1:10 ESV)

I related to Hannah. I was distressed. I wept bitterly. I prayed. Oh, how I prayed!


Even so, months passed and no baby was on the way. So I began to pray Hannah's prayer.


"O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the afflictions of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life." (1 Samuel 1:11 ESV)


That was my prayer. While I may not have prayed those exact words, that was the prayer of my heart. And just as He did for Hannah, God heard my prayer and answered. Just as we were about to initiate adoption proceedings, we learned that God had answered my prayer! Several months later, a few weeks ahead of schedule, I gave birth to a son! And a few years after that, our second son was born.


When Brian was born, I prayed Hannah's prayer again. This time it was a prayer of thanksgiving. And I prayed it again three years later when Brandon was born.


"For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me the petition that I made to Him. My heart exults in the LORD." (1 Samuel 1:27; 1 Samuel 2:1 ESV)


Hannah's story, and mine, taught me a few life lessons. First and foremost, I learned that God is sovereign. I learned that God is in control. Doctor's are wonderful, but they don't have all the answers. They are, after all, only human. (Perhaps that's a life lesson we could also apply to the current corona virus situation.)


This experience continues to remind me that God hears and answers prayer. The answer may not always be what we want or expect, although in this case, for me, it certainly was. But even if the answer is different than what we hope for or expect, God always answers our prayers. And His answers are always best. Because He is God.


Another life lesson from this experience is persistence. I learned to keep on praying. To never give up. My prayer wasn't answered the first time I prayed it. Or the second. I prayed for months. I continued to pray. I prayed without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). My answer came after I continued to pray, not knowing when the answer would come, but knowing and believing that God would answer.


Through it all, I learned a lot about the character of God. About His faithfulness. About His love. About His sovereignty. About His trustworthiness. These are lessons I have never forgotten. Now that I am no longer a young woman, these lessons remain core beliefs for my life. God is sovereign. God answers prayer. God's ways are always best. God's timing is always perfect. God can be trusted.


My sons are now grown men with sons of their own. Every time I look at them, and every time I celebrate their birthdays, I are minded once again that God answer's prayer.