Naming … and shaming

A crowd walks through the streets with placards proclaiming “Black Lives Matter.” Watch what happens when someone says, “White Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter.” Chants of racist fill the air.

Can’t everyone matter?

Parades and special weeks proclaim “Gay Pride” or just “Pride”—to represent all LGBTQ people. Google features a drag queen. Anyone who posts “Straight Pride” or “I am for traditional marriage” is vilified as a homophobe.

Isn’t it okay to prefer one lifestyle?

Many people wear masks for Covid19. Others don’t, saying masks aren’t effective. Some wear them because they’re required. Other people balk, citing the freedom to make their own choices. Asthmatics may choose not to wear a mask because it restricts oxygen. 

Can’t people choose what they wish to wear or not—unless it’s the law?

A lot of churches closed their doors for the pandemic. Some of them still haven’t opened because of the legal restrictions in their countries or areas. Other churches opened with special social distancing seating, sanitizer, and following health guidelines. Quite a few pastors refused to close the doors of their physical buildings at all, citing religious freedom. There has been much discussion on this matter.

May individual, independent churches decide—unless it’s the law?

We won’t even start about politics!

I believe it’s a sad state of affairs when a person cannot speak his mind without everyone else coming down on him. It is awful that one statement is valued and another parallel statement gets mocked. Why is only one viewpoint acceptable? Is there no room for thinking and expressing ideas?

Doesn’t God’s view matter?

The truth is:

  • God made every single human being—of every hue—in an incredibly purposeful, detailed way. Each was made in the image of God. (Psalm 139:13-16; Genesis 1:27)
  • He created male and female and instituted marriage. (Genesis 1:27; 2:22-24)
  • We are to be considerate of others. (Luke 6:31; Philippians 2:3)
  • The Lord wants us to follow the laws of the land. (Romans 13:1-7)
  • God wants us to be kind. (Ephesians 4:32)

Even when we differ, we should be kind. How can Christians hope to win the lost if we’re not nice?

I believe strongly on some of the subjects I mentioned and not so strongly on others. For example, I don’t care who wears a face mask.

But, even if I don’t agree with a person, he or she can still be my friend. I have friends and relatives in every category above, and I respect them as people for whom Jesus died. They are created in the image of God, just as much as I am. I pray for them and care about them.

Jesus said, And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these (March 12:30-31).

Let’s go out and love our neighbors—even when they disagree with us.

May we present our opinions with grace and back them up with biblical truths.

Jesus said, Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).

You matter to God. He wants your affection, and He wants you to share that love with others.

Getting used to the new normal

Spanish news, American news, British news … they’re all talking about “the new normal.” Of course, no one has a clue what that means. There’s not one definition and not one recommendation, but we’re all supposed to get accustomed to things being different.

I had to laugh about a month ago when the climate activists were rejoicing about no smog in major cities like Beijing, Rome, Madrid, etc. where there were major shutdowns. Great. No pollution.

People are all shut up in their homes.

They cannot work.

People cannot drive anywhere unless it is critical to their wellbeing.

Look how it’s helping the climate. Animals in our streets. More bees.

We saved a lot on fuel for our car these past months. Of course. We couldn’t go to church or anywhere.

Is this the new normal? Forbidden to do anything or go anywhere?

“People aren’t spending extra money on clothing,” one news medium touts. “Isn’t that wonderful?” Well, when people aren’t allowed to leave their homes and the clothing sections of supermarkets are roped off, it’s not exactly a hard choice.

Then, we have the new social distancing normal. No one even knew what social distance was until recently, but these guidelines are hilarious, too. Some think it’s a meter (yard) and a half. Some say six feet. I heard a polititian say twelve feet today on the news. Where’d he get that?

Social distancing means we can’t hug, kiss, or touch. Our old people can’t have visitors. If you ask me, that’s just distancing, nothing social about it at all.

We went to church for the first time on Sunday. Our people sat a little farther apart than is prescribed by law. All of us wore masks. We sanitized our hands as we walked in. I waved to the others. There was no mingling, no fellowship, and no talking or hanging around before or after the service. It sure beats virtual meetings, and we’ll accept it for now.

But, the new normal?

Not normal. Not at all. Spanish society is all about touching, warmth, and relating to each other. Friendships. It’s one of the things I love about living here.

I have yet to go to the grocery store—after ten weeks—and I haven’t been in any large town. I am only now allowed to ride with my own husband in our own car. Woo hoo!

New normal.

No one would accept this forever, and I don’t think it will be forever.

Plexiglass divisions at restaurant tables? Puh-lease!

Yes, be careful. Wear a mask, if need be. Take care of others and yourself, and please wash your hands often and well.  If anything becomes a new normal, I hope it’s the handwashing thing. Just saying….

People were designed to relate to each other. Even before Adam was made from dust, God had planned a helper for him. God wanted the world populated and full of people. He wants us to care, fellowship, Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep (Romans 12:15).

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing (Ecclesiastes 3:1-5).

Sounds like today, doesn’t it? This is one of those times to refrain.

God knew all about pandemics in the past, and He wasn’t taken by surprise by this one.

As to a new normal?

I sincerely hope we learn to value what’s most important—especially our families and church gatherings—and we cut out some of the extra time-eaters. I hope people wash their hands more and contaminate less.

But, I also hope the new normal is close to the old normal … if normal even exists.

Reflections from quarantine

My worst day was one of the first. We’d been watching news coverage of the pandemic and had recently been told we’d be shut in at home for two weeks. They were serious. Even a walk in the wilderness was a step too far. I felt panic, enclosed. I wanted to go out and get a dog. (Dog walking is a legitimate excuse to leave the house.)

Thankfully, I quickly got over that surreal low point and began focusing on my blessings. I now have lots of time with my husband. He’s a keeper, and the extra time together has been welcome.

Most days, I go outside in the yard—very thankful for our yard—looking for beauty. I take a camera and photograph the spring awakening. When one searches for beauty, one finds it. The walks are good exercise, too. I love the sounds of the birds and wind. It’s mostly quiet, now, with very few cars or planes.

I use my extra time at home differently. My first novel is getting additions and edits, and it’s actually wrapping up in a direction that even I hadn’t foreseen.

One of the strange blessings of this time has been online church. Of course, I don’t want it to continue like this. We look forward to assembling together again. (See my blog post about this, here.) But, what I didn’t anticipate was the opportunity to enjoy our home church’s services live, plus our two services, and usually another on television. That means, instead of two services on Sundays, we enjoy three or four. Also, our daughter regularly watches one of our services online, from another country—a rare treat for her.

Our mission is streaming daily prayer times, and our home church is sharing a daily devotional from the men on staff.

This week is my project week, and I have boxes of things to sort through. Won’t that be fun? I’m being facetious, but this much-procrastinated task needs doing, and I don’t teach this week, so there are no excuses.

We’re in the fourth week of quarantine, with at least three ahead of us. The good news is that it looks like the worst of the epidemic in Spain might be behind us.

When King David was in a very low point, he encouraged himself in the LORD his God (from 1 Samuel 30:6). His people had been captured, and those who were left were angry and ready to stone their leader. David’s own family members had been carried away. But, David knew where to go with his concerns and griefs. He encouraged himself in the Lord. Then, he prayed for direction.

I’ve had to do the same: encourage myself in the Lord and ask Him for direction.

You see, our own plans hadn’t left room for a plague. Not at all. This was supposed to be a transition time. But God had other plans for us. Stay put. Keep on keeping on. Do what’s at hand to do.

I only need to trust.

At the beginning of this year, I chose a word to help me focus. Do you remember what it was?

Worship.

This last week, I’ve been consciously turning my worries into worship. Lou Ann encouraged herself in the LORD her God.I’m trusting the One Who knows and cares.

What are you learning through this time of confinement? Please feel free to share.

Truths and fallacies

Wow! What a change in the world since a couple of weeks ago.

As many of you know, we live in Spain. This country has been officially locked down since last Saturday evening, and people are only allowed to leave their homes for food shopping—one per family—communication, pharmacy, and hospital. Some important jobs are being done, but almost everyone is at home, trying to be careful, and waiting for the virus to pass.

Since then, I’ve heard all kinds of reactions, most of them not realistic.

Some say the virus isn’t even real. Maybe they don’t live in a part of the world where people are sick and dying, but to say it doesn’t exist is silly at best.

Others say it’s a hoax or a conspiracy. I always question these reactions. Seriously? Everything is a conspiracy? Mysterious persons—always unnamed—are pulling the world’s strings? Well, there is a master plan, and I will get to God’s plan later in this post, but to think that every world event, great or small, either is a hoax or conspiracy is narrow-minded. Consider that the doctor who first reported this virus was a Christian and was ridiculed for making it up. Conspiracy? I don’t think so. Hoax? I hope everyone in the world understands the coronavirus is real and extremely contagious. If you don’t, you obviously don’t live where I do.

Some people say it’s exaggerated. Who knows? The non-exaggerated fact is that thousands have actually contracted this virus, and they can infect others merely by touching things or coughing. Thousands have died worldwide. As I write this, over 300 died from coronavirus yesterday, in Spain alone. Exaggerated? I have no idea, but I personally believe the statistics from health officials in Spain, and I actually know people who are sick.

Similar to those who believe it’s all a joke and not real are those who are apathetic. They don’t want to wash their hands, stay inside, or avoid personal contact. I heard that, at the beginning of this crisis, people from the center of Spain decided to travel to the coast and party on the beaches. Now, the hotels are closed and some are outfitted as adjunct hospitals. I also heard that those of differing political persuasions don’t want to listen to the government. I get that, but this is a health issue, folks. Take care of yourself, and think of others.

Some of my Christian friends think it’s God’s judgment. Only God knows whether that’s true or not. I remember when the Divine-judgment label was put on other pandemics: AIDS, for example. When hemopheliacs and other innocent people got HIV from simple blood transfusions, I hope those labelers changed their tune. Only God can proclaim actions as His judgment. We need to be careful about mis-characterizing Him. By the way, in the Bible, judgment and mercy go hand-in-hand. And, if this is His judgment, why are lovely people like two of my Christian friends sick with it?

I’ve heard these are the end times. This is one of those terms we can always agree with. The first part of Jesus’ Second Coming is imminent, which means it could happen at any time. The disciples knew this, and we do, too.

I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left (Luke 17:34-36). To me, this sounds like everyday life in different parts of the world. That encourages me, as this coronavirus quarentine is anything but normal. I think it will pass, but if not, I am glad I’m ready for Jesus to come and that I know I’ll be caught up with Him.

The Apostle Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote these words to comfort Christians: But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep (dead believers), that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come (2 Timothy 3:1). After that, it lists many sins we are familiar with today.

A similar prophecy is found in 2 Peter 3:3, Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts.

The times we’re living in certainly fit this description, but the Bible advises against date setting and foolish talk. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Matthew 24:36-39).

I sincerely believe this pestilence will pass, and we will go on living. But, not even the angels know if the Lord is coming today or tomorrow or three weeks or a thousand years from now.

He (Jesus) which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20).

Are you ready?

If Jesus should come today for believers, would you be caught up in the clouds with Him?

You can make sure today. (See “Is your truth the Truth?” here.)

Gathering when you can’t

The coronavirus has changed the world’s habits and closed churches all over the planet—including ours. Spain is basically on lockdown for two weeks, maybe longer.

As I begin this post, my husband and I are listening to a wonderful message. We watched and listened to another online just before this one. It’s Sunday morning.

But, it’s not the same.

We’re at home.

The Bible says, Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).

There’s a reason God says we’re supposed to gather. Physically. Fellowship with other Christians. Singing praise to the Lord. Reaching out to non-Christians.

Today, I value that gathering even more—because we can’t.

Plan B just isn’t the same. Watching and listening to messages is good. There’s nothing wrong with it at all, especially in order to protect our congregations. The Bible’s clear, also, that we should obey the government where we live, and it has decreed that everyone should stay at home and no one should congregate. We are fine with this for two or more weeks and are thankful it isn’t this way all the time.

One advantage of streaming messages is that people who don’t personally know the Lord are listening to church services. I read a note this morning from a lady who had tuned in. You never know how the Lord might use this hiatus.

And, maybe, it will teach us to value even more highly the vital assembling of God’s people.

We read of the early church, And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:46-47).

May the Lord add to ours, too. The live-streamed evening service begins in a few minutes. We will “be there.”

How about you? How Is your church dealing with this sudden change?