A very dear friend permanently moved to Hawaii with her husband a few years ago. On one hand, I mourned the move because rather than being on the mainland and a few hours away by airplane, she was now an ocean away. On the other hand, I now have a friend to visit who actually lives in Hawaii. Not a bad thing at all!
During my last visit she took me to the Maui Coffee Company (more than once) where we enjoyed amazing coffee and various treats. There is something about drinking coffee with a friend, and sitting on a porch looking out over an old pineapple plantation. Heaven.
These meandering thoughts led to me think about community and why it’s so important, whether it’s as simple as enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend or joining in worship with our community of believers. During this time of physical separation, community is more important than ever.
I found an interesting article by Jeff Nieman that discusses why community is important for spiritual growth. He reflects that as western culture emphasizes the importance of the individual, that technology has distracted us and we have become more disconnected than ever.
He says ‘Christians have even incorporated this individualism into the way we follow God. Individual study and prayer are great, but if they are our primary methods of spiritual growth, we miss out on the important benefits of experiencing Christ with others.’
We need each other. We need to support and pray for each other. Jeff says, ‘We need to meet together to encourage and support one another.’ Meeting together is something that will happen when the time is right.
The good news is that 1st Pres is pretty brilliant when it comes to community. We have proven over these past many weeks that we can be separated and yet come together in worship, and in loving and supporting each other.
Well done 1st Pres!
May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. Genesis 28:3 In His Service, Janet
1 KINGS 19:12-13 And the Lord told Elijah to ‘Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord’ and behold the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire a still small voice.
We are in the clutches of an unseen force that has brought life as we know it to a halt. Our freedoms have been infringed upon, and our daily routines are not routine anymore. We have had to be creative in how we connect with others, and our busy lifestyles may be on hold.
Have you heard the voice of the Lord in all this? He is not in the daily newscasts that cause so much worry. You will not find Him in the latest, grim statistics. He is not present in the chaos of uncertainty. Have you discovered any blessings that have come from this? If not, maybe it is time to go stand on the mountain and listen for that still small voice. You will find Him there, waiting to renew your strength, for He said, ‘Be still and know that I am God’. In His Service, Judy Flieger
When you watch the news, and you see and understand something of the scope of the human suffering associated, it is hard to think anything good about the coronavirus. Lost lives, lost jobs, fear and anguish, all these things abound. But when you see – and even experience personally – the courage, strength, and good humor of our nation – and even the world – under such adverse conditions, it warms the heart. I am especially moved to see how many people ran towards the danger and not away from it: of course, all the medical professionals and first responders who never missed a beat, but came out swinging at the call. But, maybe more surprising and uplifting were all the workers in our complex supply and outlet chains that have stayed at their posts. Did all those Amazon workers and Domino’s delivery people even know before this that they were essential industry workers? That their jobs are part of guaranteeing the world is able to function? That all of us have food to eat, internet to play on, and appropriate cleaning supplies? I don’t think most of them did. I think they just woke up to a new reality and accepted it – in most cases very gracefully. Seeing that play-out is much-needed tonic to the embattled argument that people are basically good and can be counted on to do the right thing – most of the time.
I believe this is the Spirit of Christ in people. Even the unbelieving turns instinctively to God in difficult times – and this is the clear and obvious result of that turning. Maybe it’s the knock to our pride – the sudden realization that the routines of our lives that we have so carefully built are no longer able to make us successful in the ways we once cared about most. We have to turn to others for answers for how to get through the day. And to get the big questions answered, people are turning to the Big Man. In that moment, when we realize we come up short, and we turn to God for help, there is a golden opportunity for a step in the right direction. I see a lot of people taking those kinds of steps.
Even the rancor of politics has eased somewhat; and though it’s not anything like peace or even a truce, it is so nice to not have it shoved down the throat so vigorously with the nightly news. It just doesn’t resonate with people right now. The mood has changed. People don’t want to hear about hate, they are more interested in love. I hope this respite remains and even grows into a permanent change.
And how should we react to this global change of pace we are experiencing? There are many fears, of course, about the potential consequences. But I think we will see this same Christian spirit rise in the coming months to meet the new challenges ahead. And, I think, when viewed from history’s perspective, at least, this will be a time when mankind slowed down, took stock, and made critical changes. At least, that’s what I hope will be seen. Because that is the great opportunity we have been presented with: to re-evaluate all our habits, including the pace we live our lives at and the priorities we have been working towards. This is an individual opportunity we can seize on, but it is a national and global opportunity, too. I hope we go the whole way.
Lost lives, lost jobs, fear and anguish: all these things abound. And they will continue to abound in our world until the Lord returns. One of the best things that we can let come out of this time is for us to feel more inside for all those who suffer in this life. Not so we can be moved to pity, but so we will be moved to prayer. In this, each of us is able, right now, to take a permanent step towards Christ. But I think, the biggest steps we can take right now are into God’s rest. And in these steps I hope we see and understand – maybe for the first time – that we who know Jesus are also essential industry workers. We know that without the prayers of the saints – which we all are – this world would topple over. And likewise, with our prayers, we are able to lift it up. I hope we wake to this reality and respond to it with energy and grace. That we avoid the question, why me? And, instead, embrace the question: so, how far can we lift it? Because that’s a question I would really like to discover the answer to.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”Colossians 3:15-16 What a wild ride it has been for the last few weeks! So much of what is on the news these days feels like something right out of a movie, certainly not real life. This pandemic has not only spread across the world at an alarming rate, but it has also spread across our daily realities and changed so much for so many. Because of the life-threatening potential of this virus, social distancing and canceled gatherings have become necessary precautions. While all of this is necessary, it is also unnerving. It’s like “normal” life slammed on the brakes and we’re all reeling from the whiplash.
In the grand scheme of things, saving lives is number one priority. But I think there are a lot of emotions that we need to process in the midst of all these sudden changes. For me, one of those is a very real feeling of disappointment and right behind that, the worry that if I express my disappointment, how petty does that make me look in the midst of the seriousness of this virus.
Along the way I have found that processing this emotion of disappointment is not only OK…it’s emotionally and spiritually necessary. I am not making light of anyone else’s pain when I process my pain to try to gain a better perspective.
So, first, whatever you maybe be going through today, it is worth taking to the Lord and asking for His help. Secondly, let’s give each other grace since we are all trying to navigate unexpected fears, hardships and disappointment. Social distancing doesn’t mean we distance ourselves from offering each other grace. Let’s process what we are facing!
There are people trying to figure out how to make money to live since their workplace closed. Those who don’t get paid when they don’t work are looking at scary financial realities. Schools are closed. Graduations and family gatherings are canceled. Businesses large and small are experiencing financial realities also. Everything that we thought we would be doing in this season looks vastly different than we expected, and the feelings of loss are real.
So, how do we set our minds and hearts on things above when we are staring at such startling realities? Here are some of the things that are helping me: Remembering what I do have so I don’t get consumed by what has been taken. Remembering that fun has not been canceled, love has not been canceled, being good to other people has not been canceled, and learning and growing has not been canceled. I am using this time to reframe what matters most.
This may be a delay, a distraction, or even a devastation for a season. But this is not our final destination. Though COVID-19 has canceled many things, it has not canceled God’s goodness. Let us rest in that, rejoice in that, and be so very reassured! Blessings & Happy Easter, Chris