Unexpected treasures. . .

When sorting through a departed loved one’s things, what bits of wisdom can be found!

My dear mother went to be with Jesus October 27, 2020. She was a child of the depression and was fascinated by history. To put it bluntly, she hoarded things, but in a very neat and controlled way. That means that, in addition to the Mason jars and empty CoolWhip bowls, we have discovered evidence of most of her life from 1926 onward.

One treasure we have discovered is an old metal suitcase, circa 1940s, that belonged to my Uncle Jake, who served in Africa, Italy and was part of the Normandy invasion. Some of his belongings are therein. There are also bundles of letters that he wrote my grandparents and that they wrote to him. Unfortunately, they are written in pencil in a slanting script that I find hard to decipher.

My mother loved music and I think may have dreamed of being a musician. The book with the lady in the peach-colored dress on the cover is about a mail-order music school based in New York. We have discovered several paperback hymn books with shape notes, the old gospel style.

The vintage camera I’m not sure about, but I know my uncle took pictures as he traveled across France with his tank battalion. I wonder if this is the camera he used?

However, buried in all this “stuff” I found a tiny piece of newsprint, brown and wrinkled with age:

A Falsehood

“First somebody told it. Then the room wouldn’t hold it. So the busy tongues rolled it, ‘Till they got it outside; When the crowd came across it, They never once lost it, But tossed it, and tossed it,’Till it grew long and wide.”

Anonymous

I don’t know why someone in my family went to the trouble to clip this out and save it 80 years ago. Perhaps they had been the victim of a falsehood that got told and rolled and tossed until it grew long and wide. I will never know. But this odd little verse spoke to me, because it describes the world today, don’t you think?

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat–a ready environment to tell and roll and toss words until they take a life of their own and become someone’s truth. Whether it’s gossip about relationships or wealth or lost jobs or lost love, perceived or real injustice, or just acting out, the falsehood grows until it seems to so many to be absolute reality and truth. Or what about the “Big Lie” that our democratic process no longer works, is no longer honest, that Joe Biden could not have been elected President of these United States unless somebody cheated.

This odd little verse reminds me to be careful what I say, careful what I accept and believe as irrefutable truth, careful what I share on social media. I don’t believe much in coincidence. I think I needed to find this verse. Perhaps you needed to read it. I know I needed to share it.

Your thoughts?

Pilgrimage. . .

We are all on a pilgrimage of some sort. Where is yours taking you?

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This morning I came across a verse in Psalms that made me think. Isn’t that what Scripture is supposed to do? Make us think? And it seemed very appropriate for my current season of life, because the future is a bit cloudy and uncertain at present, as far as my career goes. This is the verse:

Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.

Psalm 84:5 NKJV

In this instance the psalmist was referring to the Jewish pilgrimage to Zion. But the verse made me think of my life journey, my season in life, in a different way.

Because isn’t this earthly life just that–a pilgrimage–from one place, one season, one job, one event (happy or tragic) to another place, season, job, event? And, ultimately, the pilgrimage from this life on earth as a physical being with a spiritual soul to the afterlife as a fully spiritual being? I’ve lost some beloved family members and friends and have been able to soothe my grief with the acknowledgement that they had just completed that final pilgrimage.

But right now, for me, the verse speaks to my personal pilgrimage, that of passing from one season of this earthly life into another, from one phase of my career to another. And it reminds me not to be frightened of or resistant to the changes that must come as long as my strength is in God.

Lord, help me to remember that I do not face these changes, these challenges, alone. Remind me minute by minute that this life is not mine to control. I see your hand in so many opportunities you have granted. I see your hand in so many decisions that I thought I made, but that you directed. You have blessed, and I trust that you will continue to guide, direct, and strengthen me. I pray in your blessed Son’s name, Jesus. Amen

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Queen Esther. . .

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One of my favorite Bible stories is found in the Old Testament, book of Esther. Esther was a young Jewish girl whose Hebrew name was Hadassah. Her Persian name was Ester, the Persian word for “star.” (Esther is the Greek spelling.) She was in captivity in Persia during one of the times of Jewish punishment for rebellion. Her uncle, Mordecai, was her protector and adviser.

The Persian king had ordered Queen Vashti to appear before him and his guests after a seven-day feast during which wine had been flowing freely. His reasoning was to exhibit her beauty and brag about his conquest. Queen Vashti, who was entertaining the women of the palace, did not feel like getting dressed up and donning her crown to parade in front of a possibly drunken group of men just upon the king’s command, and refused to comply.

The king was furious, but his advisers were appalled. What if all the wives in the kingdom followed the queen’s example and began to disobey their husbands? Horrors! Therefore, the king, upon his advisers strong insistence, essentially divorced Vashti and stripped her of her royal title. Ah, but he soon began missing the benefit of having a beautiful wife at his beck and call. His advisers had the answer. Beautiful young virgins would be sought and brought before the king so that he could choose a new, and, hopefully more compliant, queen.

In a classic “Me, Too” episode, Esther, because of her beauty, was taken into the haram of King Ahasuerus to become a candidate for what would be either a forced one night stand or ultimate wife/queenship. Needless to say, upon the advice of her uncle, she had not revealed that she was one of the Jewish captives. This would have automatically disqualified her from consideration. After months of grooming and training and purification rituals, it was her turn to be taken to the king. Instead of requesting extra jewels and more enticing robes to entrap the king, she wisely accepted only what the king’s eunuch in charge of the haram advised.

Well, Esther won the love and grace and favor of the king, and he made her the queen instead of Vashti. But trouble was brewing. Insurrectionists sought to overthrow the king, and Mordecai, hearing their plot, shared it with Esther who then shared it with the king. The king’s life was spared and the plotters were executed. But more trouble was coming. An evil character named Haman came into power as one of their replacements. He became angry with Mordecai, who failed to offer appropriate respect and fear when Haman passed by.

Haman could not be satisfied with just destroying Mordecai. It was because of Mordecai’s Jewish faith that he was disrespectful, the evil man theorized. Therefore, all the Jews in the kingdome must be killed without the opportunity to defend themselves. Alas, what could be done? Not only must Esther appear at the king’s request, she must not appear uninvited, upon penalty of death, unless the king extended his sceptre toward her. Well, he loved her “more than any other,” and he did accept her visit(s) and intervention on behalf of Mordecai and her people as she reminded him of her uncle’s role in previously saving the king from assasination.

To make a long story short, because of Esther’s intervention, Haman’s plot was thwarted, he was hanged, and God provided protection for his people in captivity. The most telling verse in the whole book is this (Mordecai speaking to Esther):

For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Esther 4: 14 (NKJV)

Some of you think you know where I’m going with this. I bet I surprise you. Joe Biden made two bids for the nomination for the presidency in the past. This time he won the Democratic nomination and, ultimately, the popular and electoral vote, not by fraud or theft, but because a lot of us (81,283,098 Americans) voted for him. That was 51.3 % of the popular vote, translating into 306 electoral votes. He won.

And I believe, at this point in the history of our nation, that it was God’s will. He has groomed Joe Biden for 78 years to act in wisdom and maturity and love for democracy. He is not senile. He has a mild stutter that causes some of you to claim this. He does not love China–look at his history in the Obama presidency when he was definitely not friendly with the Chinese leadership when sent on diplomatic missions. He is not a socialist. He loves this country and its people. He is devoutly Catholic and hates the loss of infant life as much as all of us conservatives do. Please give him a chance.

I’m sorry many of you are disappointed in the election results. Many of us were disappointed four years ago. Winners and losers. That’s the way democratic elections work.

And to you, President-elect Biden, and to you, Vice-President-elect Harris, it was for “such a time as this” that you were born. Take the opportunity to heal America seriously, for we are wounded. Follow God and love people and make the most of your time. I will be praying for you.

A Less-than-Great Generation? . .

I’ve always been fascinated by World War II history. My parents were part of that era, born in 1916 and 1926, respectively. They were married shortly after my father returned from his Army experience in the Pacific Theater. He was stationed on the island of Guam. Both lived through the Great Depression and World War II. My maternal uncle was part of the Normandy landing.  I relished Tom Brokaw’s book  The Greatest Generation. Those who experienced the Great Depression, like my mother, saved everything, as evidenced by the remnants of rationing books I found in her boxes of “keepsakes.” They saved because they “might need it” and to remember the past. img_0002 I grew up with a healthy respect for patriotism and the ability to make it through “hard times.” I am the first in my family to complete a baccalaureate degree. My parents were doubly proud when I completed a master’s degree in nursing. They both had dreams that were left behind because of the need to survive. They sacrificed for their children without complaint. I grew up knowing that I was loved unconditionally. My heart is heavy today because I see the patriotism that I was taught morphing into something that is not the pure love of God, country and fellow man my parents demonstrated. As Americans we are to love democracy itself and the processes and foundation that make it democratic in nature. Political parties may be necessary evils but they are not the source of who we are as Americans. We are not to love individual men who are in leadership roles as we blindly overlook their actions. We are to remember that the will of the people is the ultimate decisive force in who holds office in the executive and legislative branches of government. Citizens are to accept the results of elections gracefully. I grieve for the reality that racism is still alive and well in our country. When Jesus spoke John 3:16, he did not speak it only to folks with light-colored skin. He said:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.   John 3:16 NIV
In fact, Jesus’ bodily form was of Middle Eastern heritage, so he did not have a fair complexion. Would we have pre-judged him or Paul or the other apostles simply on the color of their skin? Would we have considered them somehow “less than” us because of their heritage? Slavery, brought early on to the North American settlement that became the United States, haunts us. After 400 years we are still struggling to expunge the memory of that sin from our Christian consciences. We just can’t face up to the reality of the skeleton in the closet. Although we may not actively persecute people of color, we harbor in our hearts feelings of distrust and unease when we view their accomplishments. I celebrate vice-president elect Kamala Harris as both a woman and a woman of color to break that glass ceiling. Do you? I was also brought up believing in a “Golden Rule.” It is strong in Judeo-Christian teaching. Jesus said:
 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.     Matthew 7:12 NIV
I am obligated to present the idea that (1) wearing a mask, (2) social distancing, (3) cleaning hands regularly, are all ways to fulfil this command. We are mandated to wear seat belts. We are mandated to pay taxes. We are mandated to follow traffic laws. And we do. Why is a mandate to wear a face mask and avoid large gatherings so onerous? Sure, I’m tired of these restrictions. But I’m still going to do anything and everything to protect myself, my loved ones, and my fellowman. I can do without a huge family Thanksgiving this year in order to be able to give thanks for a healthy family two weeks later. Thank you for sharing in the ramblings of my heart and mind and soul today. Life is hard. But I long to be surrounded by more people like those of the Greatest Generation. I am afraid we Americans have become soft and spoiled and self-centered. I’m trying to focus outward not inward. Perhaps the key to becoming another Great Generation is found in the “Greatest Commandment.”
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22: 37-39 NIV
Will anyone join me?

Dignity and joy. . .

Dignity and joy. Remember those words. I always will.

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I have one of those lifetime friends. You know, the kind that may be distant but yet always in your heart. The kind that, no matter how long it’s been since you were face to face, the conversation picks up just where it left off. I am especially blessed, because my forever friend is very, very wise. She is caring for her elderly father-in-law (who is in his 90’s) in her home, and we are caring for my failing 94-year-old mother in ours. One day she described to me how she was trying everyday to give her dear one moments of DIGNITY and JOY.

I’ve thought of those two words a lot since she shared the thought with me. One day she described using an egg carton to start some seeds with “Granddad.” She was anticipating his joy at watching the seedlings sprout and then enjoying the blossoms as they matured and bloomed. She often spoke of having him accompany her on short walks and short errands, just to get out and break up the day.

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We enjoyed much of the same when Mom first moved in with us. Thanksgiving and Christmas were productions, with her first “adult” Christmas stocking hanging on the mantel. She pondered the gifts she would give. The girls all got pearls–not the real kind, but pretty nonetheless. She gave treasured coin collections to the grandsons. She made sure to have some winter gloves and a ski mask for my hunter husband. There was joy.

In the spring we drove to Wye Mountain here in Arkansas to enjoy the fields of daffodils. She loves blooming plants and the variety of daffodils amazed her. Even as we took a wrong turn down a dirt road and traveled through a somewhat questionable area on the wrong side of the mountain, there was joy.

Then things changed. Her mind began to slip ever more quickly. And her frail, stooped, crooked back caused ever more pain. We still try for some joy. She has a tiny flower garden with potted plants just outside the bedroom window that she looks out for much of her day. There’s a Gerbera daisy with bright yellow blooms and a fancy begonia with frilly pink blossoms. And her bird feeder–through which an inordinate amount of birdseed flows, for both the birds and the squirrels. She loves the “red birds” and says she never knew there were so many little wrens.

Now it seems it is time to focus on dignity. She only allows me to help her with her shower, and I guess that’s an example of “turn about-fair play.” After all, she bathed me all those years. She eats her breakfast and lunch in her bed. She says her back is so much more comfortable propped there. But she comes to the table for family dinner. And very slowly and carefully helps clear the table and carefully wipes the table and wants to help dry anything that has to be handwashed. We used to gently protest but I’ve decided that helping clear the meal is a way to allow her dignity. It’s how she cared for her family all those years.

And dignity, of course involves physical comfort, freedom from pain and anxiety and the night terrors she used to have. Hospice is helping with that and doing a fine job. Today after I showered her and trimmed toenails and fingernails she lay on her bed and said, “Oh, that feels so good.” I straightened the room and left her to nap. And I felt good, too.

Dignity and joy. Remember those words. I always will.

Seasons. . .

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Last weekend I found myself explaining to my 94-year-old mother that she has reached a new season of her life and that it is ok to depend on us for those matters. The conversation (more of a soliloquy on my part) was precipitated by her request that her pain medication no longer be under her control, but that we dispense it. Over the last couple of month she has become more confused and more forgetful, and she, at some level, recognized that the further change in her thinking could be dangerous.

We brought Mom from her home, where she had lived independently since my dad’s death 24 years ago, to live with us the last week of October, 2019. She had asked me, crying, what she was “going to do.” She had recognized the signs that her mild dementia was worsening. Shortly after she came to live with us, she had an unexplained fever and was mildly delirious. A couple of days afterward she asked me what dying was like. I responded with the question, “Do you think you’re dying?”

“I know I am,” she answered. “I saw the light.”

However, she continued to live life. We had a good Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was notable that we observed her gifting “special” things to individuals. Then COVID came. It stole the the joy of outings and unlimited social contact from her. She was depressed and praying to die. She no longer wanted medical care. We invited hospice to help us care for her. What a blessing that agency and the people that serve are!

We observed her gradually decline, but with less pain, until about a month ago when there was a brief episode of garbled speech and agitation. The downward spiral has been consistent since then. Sleeping more. Eating less. Unable to make the simplest decision. She appears to think she is in some kind of care facility, asking who she should request “supplies” from (toilet paper) and “if there’s a shower in this place.” Yes, there are three, one in her private bath. She is sweetly courteous in all our interactions. Last evening when I invited her to eat her supper, she asked, “How am I going to be able to pay for this?”

I, of course, assured her no payment is needed. She has paid it forward in so many ways. This morning during my quiet time I found a passage in Psalms that I had dated 5/22/2005–“Mom’s 79th birthday.”

….Surely you will reward each person according to what he (she) has done.

Psalm 62: 12b (NIV)

I remember at that time recognizing the loving care she had given my dad after his initial heart attack in 1966. She cared for him through two open-heart surgeries and for the thirty years he lived after that initial event, doing without a Medicare supplement herself so he could have one. She was devoted in Bible study and an incredible prayer warrior until her vision and hearing and mind have failed. I have no doubt that when she leaves this earthly plane she will have a reward in heaven.

And, I have a reward now–the opportunity to love on her, even when I think she doesn’t quite know our relationship but just that this is the place where she is cared for. Describing a picture to the hospice nurse the other day, she pointed to me and said, “Cindy’s mother.” Pointing to my daughter, Cindy, she said, “That’s Kathy.”

May God bless you, Mother, as richly as He has blessed us through you.

What would Jesus do?

You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about what freedom means to me and what it seems to mean to other people.

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Please don’t cut me off right here because you see the masks. I just have an idea to share with you. I’m a nurse by profession. Trained in the scientific method and germ theory. Taught that if you don’t have anything better to do, wash your hands. And then HIV came along and gloves became mandatory when touching anything “wet” and not yours, and now even when touching skin. I learned to isolate certain infections, to dress wounds, to give medicines, and to assess patients and, sometimes, save lives.

Here’s the kicker for many of you: I believe COVID-19, the pandemic, is very real and very dangerous. Now, don’t turn me off yet. Please. I do have a thought to share.

I hear a lot about how being told to wear masks and social distance or stay at home is taking away personal freedom. We Americans don’t like to be told what to do, especially by the news media or the government. Please, just keep reading.

What if, just for a moment, you considered as a tool to evaluate behavior: what would Jesus do? You know wearing a cloth face covering or other mask (not an N95 mask) does not protect the WEARER from the virus. It only protects those the wearer comes in contact with. It is well known that some people with COVID have NO symptoms. While you are FEELING GOOD and shopping at Walmart or vacationing at the beach, eating at your favorite restaurant, or in a gathering with friends, or maybe in church or Bible study, you could unknowingly be exposing friends and strangers to the infection IF YOU ARE NOT WEARING A MASK. Many of those contacts might be particularly “at risk” of serious complications or death should they become infected because of age or other medical conditions. Some of them might simply take the infection home to children or elderly family members. The multi-system failure that children have had is real. The many COVID deaths are real. (Yes, I know the flu kills, too, but we have an immunization for that.) The potential pregnancy loss for a mother who becomes infected is real.

The COVID pandemic is not some conspiracy to steal your freedom or affect the outcome of a Presidential election. And I think, if Jesus were walking on this earth today in human form, he would, out of love and respect and mercy for us all, wear a mask.

Nope, it’s not fun. But we are adults and do a lot of things that aren’t fun. I hope that we are NOT so “grown-up” and self-centered that we forget the Golden Rule. I hope we ARE “grown-up” enough to respect and protect those we come in contact with.

I wear my mask in Walmart, as I teach Sunday School, and all day, everyday at work. I wear it when I go to various meetings. I do it to protect everyone that I come in contact with. I wish more people respected me and my family in the same way. And trust me, this is written with love and concern for everyone who has been and will be affected by the choices every person makes every day. Blessings.

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Hedge of thorns. . . .

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I read a line in an old favorite devotional book the other day. The book is, indeed, old, probably out of print when my dear friend Arlene happened upon a copy. I’ve read and re-read several times since she gifted it to me in the 1990s–noting the years I read it through in the margin of the last page. Here it is:

A classic filled with “old” language that speaks to modern hearts.

That picture doesn’t do it justice, because now several pages are loose and the cover is reinforced with tape. No matter how many times I read it, I often find something “new” within the text. Kind of like when you read the Bible and all of a sudden that passage says something totally appropriate to the season you’re in but you’ve never really seen it that way before.

The phrase that captured my attention the other day is from an anonymous piece in the book. It reads,

My ways are, in a sense, hedged up with thorns and grow darker and darker daily.

Anonymous

You, see, this season of my life feels just that way. I am surrounded by a hedge of prickly thorns that stick me no matter which way I turn. There are just too many problems right now. I feel like I am constantly putting out fires.

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And putting out each fire takes time and energy, stealing my joy and peace and stamina and, sometimes, hope. But, what if I had the balance and fortitude of a little bird that perches, oh so nonchalantly, on that branch of thorns, impervious to the pricks and sticks, enjoying life?

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And, I found that I can navigate the sharp points of the thorny hedge, if I keep my head on straight and my heart on target. This morning I took the time to really pray, to listen to God rather than just listing things that I want or think I need. And today has been easier. The thorns haven’t brought blood (or tears) as they so often do. Because the answer is not found in my strength to fight the thorns, to escape the darkness. The strength must come from God.

I’m reminded of the fairy tale castles cursed by the wicked witch and surrounded by an impenetrable wall of thorns. Impenetrable until the prince comes with his gleaming sword and hacks powerfully through the hedge with magical powers, climbing ever upward until suddenly the shining castle comes into view, made new by the power of true love.

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All I have to do is connect with that power, God’s true love for me. No the hedge does not magically disappear, but the thorns lose their power to hurt, because I am clothed with the reassurance that God cares for my hurt and has a plan for all this to somehow work out.

One day I will see clearly what all this has brought about, how I’ve grown, the things I’ve learned, as I have persevered with God’s unfailing watchcare.

And I will be, once again, free of the hedge of thorns.

Hear my heart. . .

Yesterday I heard a song (while I was driving my grandson’s truck to be serviced—can you believe I would do that?) that really spoke to my heart. Because it reminded me that it’s ok to just be quiet before God. Especially when we’re hurting. And that’s where I was yesterday morning. Trying to go through the motions of “quiet time” that sometimes becomes “busy time.” “Get it done and check it off the list” time. C’mon, you’ve been there once or twice. And I was just hurting and empty and confused.

You see, my mama is ready to die. She tells me she prays everyday that she will be freed from this physical body and its pain. She’s even been angry with God because “He’s not answering my prayers anymore.” And I, in my nurse self, am trying to figure out what to do.

The idea that I should just be quiet so God can hear my heart is Biblical. Because one of my favorite passages in Romans, chapter eight, includes verse 26. It says that the “groanings” of my spirit are made intelligible to God by his Holy Spirit.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 ESV

The song goes on to say that even when we are singing praises to God in worship, no matter how fervently and passionately and sincerely we sing, that we should be asking God to, once again, hear our hearts. Because our mere words can never do justice to Him.

I usually write my prayers. But yesterday morning the written part was of the “help me, help me; thank you, thank you” variety. But, as always, in God’s awesome omnipresence, He was there, listening to my heart. And in His wisdom and mercy, He has provided an answer.

And I will praise Him for that, with my heart instead of my words.

A new world…….

April 1, 2019, the price of unleaded gasoline was two dollars and seventy cents. Look at it today. Did you ever imagine?

One year ago when we encountered family and friends in the south, we hugged. Even business aquaintances were generally met with a handshake. Some folks who were really germophobic (or carefree youths celebrating athletics or just life) might substitute a fist bump. Now we are mandated to keep a six (or ten) foot distance, and I saw today that COVID-19 can be detected in droplets twenty-seven feet away.

A year ago the economy was sound. Politics was controversial, as always. Maybe a little more so, but relatively consistent as far as party lines and liberal vs conservative lines and personalities go. The speaker of the House didn’t like the President and the aversion was mutual. Republicans thought Democrats were “out to get” President Trump, and Democrats thought Republicans were blind.

And look at us now. Gasoline almost half the price. The economy, they say, is now a “bear” market. I wasn’t sure about the derivation of this term. It made sense to think that things slow down, like a bear in hibernation. Or that personal losses in the market made people growl like a bear when they sensed their retirement money cycling down the drain. Wrong! It seems that bears attack with a downward swipe of their big bear paws, and, therefore, when the market slumps or goes down (like someone attacked by a bear–sorry, my black humor coming through) it is characterized as the aforementioned bear market.

However you look at it, the world has turned upside down and inside out. And we all are reeling with the day-to-day, hour-to-hour, almost minute-to-minute change. The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused global distress. If Rod Serling were still alive, what material he would have for more episodes of The Twilight Zone!

I’ve seen some posts that seem to ascribe the current pandemic to a deliberate act of God. It may rather be a permissive act of God, like when we do things we shouldn’t and have to suffer the consequences. I agree that God probably created the first virus, or created creation to allow the development of virus. It goes counter to my personal theology to think that God in heaven looked down on this earth, which is obviously full of sinful people and sinful acts, and said, “I will send a novel coronavirus to get their attention because I don’t like what they’re doing down there.” I have been taught that God is a God of mercy and grace. And, yes, righteous indignation and necessary judgment. But I believe that Jesus Christ is making intercession for his church as the creation which we are destroying falls apart.

Did you get that? The “creation which we are destroying” part. Gobal warming. Our constant search for more throw-away convenience. Who cares about the environmental impact of plastic bags and bottles and aluminum cans and foam? My little bit won’t make a difference. We think. Did you know that these commonly used and discarded products can take ten to a hundred years to decompose in a landfill? Even milk cartons take five years. And styrofoam does not biodegrade, meaning it is here forever.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been as lazy and complacent as anyone out there. But as I view God’s glorious creation it makes me sad to think that the polar ice caps are melting and polar bears and penguins are suffering. God is, of course, omniscient and I suppose he must have known that man would strive to be ever “smarter” and would create gas-guzzlers, aerosols, unbiodegradeble substances and anything that would make life “easier.” He knew that mankind wouldn’t be able to foresee the damage we were doing, that we were generally disrespecting God’s creation, until it was too late and we were too “set in our ways” (a good southern term) to change. Perhaps the ability of virus to transform itself genetically, becoming more virulent and deadly, and resulting in COVID-19, is a part of creation’s natural demise.

After all, the Bible does foretell not only a new heaven, but also a new earth. It looks like we’re close to needing one. I am thinking that, rather than this pandemic being a judgmental act of God, perhaps it is more of a time of testing for us. Do we really believe and follow those two greatest commandments that a Jesus shared?

I’m thinking this may be a time of testing for all of us. Is our faith strong enough, are we loving enough, and are we self-disciplined enough to follow these commandments during this pandemic? Are we maintaining a living, active faith that includes praise and thanksgiving as well as petition in our prayer life? Are we daily seeking to strengthen our faith-walk through opening God’s word to find the message he has for us?

Are we selflessly seeking the health and safety of all by following guidelines of social distancing? How often do we have the “it’s all about me mentality” versus the Golden Rule attitude of looking out for others first? Where does hoarding of food and supplies fit into the picture?

I don’t know about you but I see room for improvement in my life. Just something to think about…..