I have been keeping an pandemic prayer journal. Like everything in my life, it is irregular. Intermittent. It comes in fits and starts. But as I look back over my Facebook posts the past several weeks since COVID-19 hit home, I have a good record of my life in quarantine. I want to share some of this with you:
April 3, 2020
When Hope is Hard to Come By
I was sitting on my back deck, listening to “Ode to Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry. It is one of the best country songs ever written. Certainly one of the saddest. My wife came out and asked why I was listening to such miserable music. I said something happens when you set suffering to song that gives purpose to pain, adds rhyme and reason to what seem like pointless periods in our lives.
These are hard times and it is essential that we engage in self-care. It does us much good to create, compose, connect, care for ourselves and others. Do one thing even if you feel like crap doing it and after doing it you don’t feel any better. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manufacture happiness. It’s okay to live breath to breath, to pray with sighs and groans to make it moment by moment.
Sometimes hope is hard to come by. That doesn’t make it any less real. With a foundation of faith, we gain strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
April 4, 2020
The Rites of Spring
I’m listening to Stravinsky, peaking out the large bay window of our study. The birds are chirping and the squirrels are playfully scurrying up our backyard oak. Today, we went to a nursery and came home with a Corinthian Rose Flowering Peach tree and two Boxwood bushes. If the weather holds as it has, tomorrow will be a planting day. Then we can start praying for rain to nourish the earth and grow our greenery.
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday for many Christians. But instead of re-enacting the triumphal entry of Jesus in Jerusalem, we will huddle in our homes and perhaps begin our Holy Week with personal devotions or on-line services. It could be worse. We could be cut off altogether, isolated in exile, disconnected in every respect.
Waving palms and shouting “Hosanna in the Highest” just aren’t the same in front of a computer screen. Sanctuary celebration won’t take place for me this Palm Sunday. But I will still rejoice and be glad in the glimpse of new life spring offers, a promise of a new and better life to come.
Can you glimpse at new life beyond the shadow of the pandemic? If so, what does it look like?
Monday, April 6, 2020
Where We Worship
Countless churchgoers gathered for worship yesterday, violating the spirit if not the letter of the law. Hiding behind a religious exemption, these poor misguided souls unnecessarily put their lives and the lives of others at risk. In the name of all that is holy, what the hell were they thinking?
There is a false divide between science and religion in our age. Many who say they believe in science dismiss religion as irrelevant at best, dangerous at worst. Others who adhere to a brand of “Evangelicalism” view science as an obstacle to Truth and feel compelled to violate the dictates of government officials they see as false prophets.
In ordinary times, such a dichotomy might be played out in academic circles or among self-professed experts on Facebook. But these aren’t ordinary times. People are contracting a deadly virus contracted in close circles like sanctuaries. As people of faith, our first priority is to love God with our whole heart, mind, being. Jesus teaches us that how we treat the most vulnerable among us reveals how we serve God.
Now is the time for people of faith to follow both the commands in Scripture and the advice of medical experts. As beneficial as it can be to gather in the same space, God has given us other ways to engage in praise. We can worship God in Spirit and in Truth without putting people at risk. We need not let this social distance undo our unity in Christ. Now more than ever, we are called to be the Church in creative ways. Maintaining fellowship in on-line worship. Reading Bible stories to children of God on Zoom. Singing hymns six feet apart outside the home of a grieving widow.
Who knows? Maybe one thing that can come from this crisis is that people of science who scoff at faith will gain newfound respect and come to believe. For the glory of God.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Lately, I’ve let some essential daily tasks fall by the wayside. I haven’t shaved regularly. Showered intermittently. Let the laundry pile up. Forgotten to eat. Stayed inside instead of walking Briley in this gorgeous weather.
I’ve learned over-analyzing or beating myself over such things is counterproductive. Instead, I start each day anew with the resolve to do the best I can.
Today my best has been wonderful. I got up after a good night’s sleep. I read Scripture. Prayed. Listened to the book “The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers.” Made a protein smoothie. Brewed some coffee. Moderated my Hope for Troubled Minds community. Did laundry. Ate grilled salmon for lunch. Picked up stuff. Took a shower. Now, updating friends and family on my day.
I’ve read how important it is to keep a regular daily schedule especially during these irregular times. I believe this is true, particularly for normal people. But I’m not normal.
I used to feel guilty about not fitting into what is deemed necessary for a healthy, happy, holy life. I’ve now come to accept, even delight in my irregularity.
In some ways I think God has been preparing me for such a time as this where all things regular have been suspended. I am maladjusted enough to adjust to just about anything.