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.

Palm Sunday musings

When I was a little girl, Palm Sunday was one of my favorite occasions. Our church was decorated with green potted palms. Our children’s choir sang. It was wonderfully happy. “Hosanna, loud hosanna, the little children sang.”

I suspect our Palm Sunday in an elaborate church with stained glass windows looked nothing like the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem, but we welcomed Him. We praised Him. It was a celebration that culminated the next Sunday with the Resurrection.

So much could be said about all the happenings on that first Palm Sunday, but I want to limit my thoughts to the triumphal entry itself.

Jesus sat on a donkey colt. I have always wondered why. I’ve read that kings rode donkeys in those days, but other biblical accounts don’t have kings on horseback or mules or donkeys at all. They are almost always in a chariot, pulled by horses. So, I am not sure about this.

People put their clothing on the donkey for Jesus to sit on and in the way—to make a clean road for Him. This speaks of the willingness to serve, sacrifice, and loving Jesus. Others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way (Mark 11:8b). It was a symbol of honor.

Multitudes—one wonders how many—went before Jesus and followed saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest (Matthew 21:9).

And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out (Luke 19:37-40).

What an occasion!

The multitude introduced Jesus as the Messiah when they called Him “King” and “son of David.” Even the phrases “peace in heaven” and “glory in the highest” remind us of the angel’s message at His birth.

The religious rulers were not happy with this message. It went against their own ideas. They didn’t want to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

But Jesus replied, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. Can you imagine? This message was so important that even dumb, inanimate rocks would be able to speak if Jesus quieted the people.

Hosanna to the Son of David.

As Jesus gets close to Jerusalem, he beheld the city, and wept over it.

Jerusalem—the central city in all of the Bible. It will be the city where the end time prophecies occur and the city that’s completely re-created to be the permanent home for believers. The New Jerusalem with its rainbow-hued foundations, pearl doors, and beauty like nothing we can imagine, where Jesus Himself is the light, and where Hosannas will be sung forever and ever.

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:1-4).

So, Jesus’ ride on Palm Sunday was introducing Him as Messiah.

Hosanna in the highest!

Photo courtesy of www.lumoproject.com.

Is an empty church obeying men rather than God?

A corollary to that question is: are we actually assembling when we do it virtually?

At least one pastor has been arrested for insisting that his church remain open when the government has decreed that no groups of over ten people should meet—except in hospitals, stores, and other critical places.

Many can see this pastor’s point. After all, 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).

Shouldn’t we gather? Are Facebook Live and Zoom services actually assembling ourselves?

Or, should we defy the government guidelines and sit in pews or chairs, all together, as usual?

Let’s look at the other side of the issue, okay? The government has shut things down in order to flatten the curve and save many lives. If this advice is heeded, they say literally hundreds of thousands more people will survive the coronavirus scourge than would if these measures were not heeded. If people go about normal life, the peak of the curve means hospitals are not able to cope—which is true—and many more deaths will ensue.

The Bible says, Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king (1 Peter 2:13-17).

God says to fear God and honor the king (government). Can we do both in this situation, or do we have to choose?

Let’s consider another ethical question: is it right to value life? Almost every Christian would say yes. Life is God-given. No one has the right to take another’s life in murder. We’re against abortion, killing embrios, euthanasia, and assisted suicide.

I want to paint a scenario for you. Pastor X decides his church ought to obey God rather than men (lifted from Acts 5:29, about stopping the preaching of the gospel). Pastor X has services. His congregation comes on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evenings. Men, women, children, and seniors are together. They sing in worship. They hold children’s classes. People shake hands and greet each other. They even divide up into intimate, small prayer groups on Wednesday night.

Two weeks later, half of the congregation is infected with Covid19. Several of the seniors are in Intensive Care, and even some of the teens and children are finding it difficult to breathe.

They keep meeting, carrying on as before. Seniors are dying. So are younger people. Children with asthma and immune deficiencies are in Intensive Care.

After five weeks, there are very few people in Pastor X’s church who are not self-isolating or in the hospital. In fact, Pastor X himself is very ill and unable to preach. It’s all he can do to breathe.

Now, this is a totally hypothetical picture, and I pray it doesn’t happen anywhere. But, it’s realistic, if people do not take extreme precautions in the face of a virus with no known cure, that’s extremely contagious and dangerous.

Is it right to expose a congregation to sickness and death when it’s in your power to protect them?

Is it wrong to hold services online for a limited time in order to save lives?

Are we assembling if the assembly is virtual? Is it truly corporate worship?

And finally, what do you think God thinks? Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Maybe this includes temporary, online church.

What’s your opinion?

Proverbs 10: wise and foolish

Proverbs 10 seems at first glance to be a mish-mash of teachings and disjointed. The recurring theme, however, is the contrast between wise, righteous, blessed and a foolish, unwise person. It also divides itself into three themes: speech, business practices, and general behavior.

The first verse is about parenting. It begins with the author’s name: Solomon, the king whose name is synonymous with wisdom. And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt (1 Kings 4:29-30).

This parenting statement is a curious one. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother (verse 1). Why does it say the father is glad and the mother has heaviness? Because it’s true. Have you ever seen a proud father of a wise son or daughter? My! He sticks out his chest and almost pops buttons with pride. He loves that his child is wise. In contrast, when a son or daughter is foolish, who sorrows the most? Who blames herself? Who takes it to heart? The mother.

I’m going to divide the rest of the verses into the three categories we mentioned above:

1. Speech

What does this Proverb have to say about one’s speech? We have wise persons’ speech and fools’ speech. Let’s start with the fools and end with the wise.

  • Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked (9).
  • A prating fool shall fall (10).
  • Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked (11).
  • The mouth of the foolish is near destruction (14).
  • He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool (18).
  • In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin (19).
  • The froward (perverse) tongue shall be cut out (31).
  • The mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness (32).

Wise speech:

  • The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life (11).
  • In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found (13).
  • He that refraineth his lips is wise (19).
  • The tongue of the just is as choice silver (20).
  • The lips of the righteous feed many (21).
  • The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom (31).
  • The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable (32).

2. Business practices. In this section, we have the contrasts between good and bad, wise and foolish. I will leave the sentences intact, as I think they are easy to understand this way. You will read what God thinks about laziness, taking advantage of the poor, and how He provides for His own.

  • Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death (2).
  • The LORD will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked (3). God is always the Perfect Judge.
  • He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich (4). Several of the verses in this chapter are about laziness.
  • He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame (5).
  • The rich man’s wealth is his strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty (15). This verse is sad. The rich person has wealth, and that’s all he has. The poor are brought down by their poverty. I know you’ve seen this in society.
  • The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin (16). I like that a righteous person’s labor is for life. I think of 1 Corinthians 15:58, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
  • As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him (26). Vinegar on the teeth and smoke in the eyes—two powerful uncomfortable feelings that everyone can relate to. One thing about the Bible that is so cool is how God uses illustrations that anyone in any culture worldwide can understand. Who likes a lazy messenger or worker? No one. The meaning is clear.

3. General behavior

  • The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot (7). This is a strong statement, but it’s true. What do we think of when we hear the names David Livingstone, Charles Spurgeon, and Isobel Kuhn? We smile, remembering their faithfulness and example. How about Charles Branson, Billy the Kid, and John Dillinger? We remember them for their crimes, their evil, and their lust for killing. Their names actually rot.
  • He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known (9).
  • Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins (12). This last phrase doesn’t mean that we ignore sin. It means we don’t keep drudging up old faults. Once sin is dealt with, we forget it in love.*
  • He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth (17).
  • The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich,* and he addeth no sorrow with it (22). This is talking about an enriched life, not material riches.
  • It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom (23).
  • The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted (24).
  • As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation (25).
  • The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened (27).
  • The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish (28).
  • The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity (29).
  • The righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth (30).

Isn’t it fascinating to read God’s practical Word? I know I want to be on the wise, righteous, and blessed side of things. Don’t you?

God bless you today!

*William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary.

Encouragers I know and 7 ideas for being one

When I think of encouragers, the first people who come to mind probably don’t have any idea how much good they do. Let me introduce you to a few of them.

Barbara, Sandy, Lenora, and Diana post beautiful flowers and nature scenes on social media. Many of these include Bible verses or positive messages.

Ellen types a Bible verse and just leaves it there for people to think about.

Maribel posts a series of ladies’ Bible studies in Spanish, free and accessible.

Karen, Adam, and Holly are my funny friends. They put clean, wholesome comics, personal experiences, and hilarious faux pas out there for everyone to laugh at. Holly poses for selfies, where she dresses up as an animal, usually using only a change of hair and facial expression, displaying the inspiring animal photo beside her. Adam posts Far Side comics, which have something to do with real life at the moment. They’re wry humor, but more than once I’ve laughed out loud.

Tim, Jess, Barbara, Patti, and Jonathan write thoughtful, helpful, and edifying blogs. They always encourage me in some aspect of my walk with the Lord.

Lisa, Vicki, Luba, Patti, and Ruth take pictures when they’re out on walks. They find beauty wherever they go.

And, there are those people who make the most of any situation. Ester and her family held a special picnic on their tiny balcony—since they can’t leave home during the quarantine.

These are some of the real people who make my day.

How can you encourage others?

Your choice will depend upon your particular personality, familiarity with technology, and talents. Let me offer some ideas. Since we can’t leave the house these weeks, I’ll try to make these practical for now. Maybe some of these will spark you into adding some sparkle to your online presence.

  1. Spread the Word. Think of different ways to share Bible verses, thoughts, and messages (maybe your church’s streaming) with your friends.
  2. Share happiness. I guess it’s obvious, but just in case: happiness means happy news, positive thoughts, and pretty things. What makes you happy? You can start there. Think of options like: memes, photography, quotations, poems, sayings, praise verses.
  3. Show beauty. This means sharing God’s glorious creation, a beautiful garden, any scene from nature, your pet being cute, a lovely family photo, colorful travel scene—anything that will inspire others to smile.
  4. Write about themes that are appropriate today. I had a few blog posts all ready to go about subjects that were rather dark and serious. I’ve put them off for at least a few months. Today, people need peace, security, laughter, and of course, the gospel of salvation. Write about Truth. By the way, the Psalms are a wonderful place in which to dwell for these few weeks.
  5. Play music for others. I don’t think you have to be Pavarotti to sing or Van Cliburn in order to play the piano. However, I do prefer that the musician on social media would display at least a minimal level of proficiency. Don’t post your kid singing along with a howling dog, for example–even if they’re both cute. I can hear that in a back alley. Share music that uplifts the spirit, especially Christian music, encouraging the soul. Last week, one of my friends shared Ethel Waters singing, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Brought a happy tear to my eye.
  6. Share clean humor. The Bible says, A merry heart doeth good like a medicine (Proverbs 17:22a). If it’s funny to you, it’ll probably provide a chuckle for someone else.
  7. Avoid negative stuff. Especially now, when much of the world is quarantined at home, we don’t need to hear about deaths* (*unless in your family. We want to pray with you and for you.), accidents,* the virus,* murders, and horrors. I personally don’t enjoy reading about those things at any time, but now is the time to encourage. Avoid the rottenness, and present Truth, beauty, fun, and happy.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).

Be an encourager today!

For more articles about encouragers, consider these: Joses Barnabas, the Encourager, here, and Five Ways to Encourage Others Using Social Media, here.