What I’m learning in confinement

What am I learning? You might be as surprised as I am.

Quite a few years ago, a friend sent our co-worker a cassette tape with a song about the “First Jeroboam, come-as-you-are” church. We listened to it with friends and laughed and laughed. It mentioned casual dress, drive-in church, etc. Absurd! We would never stoop to such.

Just a couple of years ago, when another country banned the face veil and other facial coverings in public spaces, I was all for it. A person’s face tells so much about them, and when you can’t see people’s faces, it’s depersonalizing (if that’s a word).

I can almost hear myself telling a young Christian that it is so important to physically assemble for church services, quoting Hebrews 10:25—and it is. And now, our own church is making herculean efforts to assemble virtually, as this Christian lady was doing at the time.

A global virulent pandemic with no known cure and no vaccination has changed the ways we do things. We all hope and pray the restrictions and lockdowns pass as quickly as is prudent and that we, indeed, can save many lives by giving up some of our liberties for a relatively brief time.

I balked those first few days. The prohibition that I couldn’t leave my home—not that I necessarily would have—bugged me. I have to admit, there are pros and cons. I love having more time with my husband, since he can’t go anywhere, either. Having time to work on a project adds to my happiness.

I’ve never been so thankful for our yard.

My church family has become dearer, not more distant—although we can only meet through social media and communicate by texting and phone.

I confess to not dressing up for every church service. (Don’t be harsh on me, please.) We can watch our home church live, a real plus. On Sundays, we can enjoy four services, instead of two.

My secret hope is that most churches begin to livestream regularly from now on. They will reach more people and minister more effectively to their shut-ins. It’s a great mission tool that must not be ignored.

So, I laugh at myself for encouraging my husband to wear a mask and gloves as he grocery shops. He doesn’t look sinister or personless to me; he looks wise.

I’m chuckling when I read about my friends outside of Spain who had drive-in Easter activities and services.

Knowing it is truly important to gather the church—its people—together for corporate worship, I have come to appreciate the outreach of livestreaming and Zoom meetings.

I am learning patience—at least I hope so—in a time of real trials. This has been one of the hardest periods in our lives for several reasons besides the covid virus. Yet, God is faithful. He is accomplishing something in us. And, we worship Him.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him (Psalm 28:7).

What are you learning, if you’re confined? Please share.

Seven tips for beating boredom

Children say they’re bored. Teens say it. Adults often talk about boredom. Being quarantined hasn’t helped the problem, so let me offer some sincere advice for getting a life and squelching boredom.

Boredom: “the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

The only time I’ve ever been bored in my life was when I was too sick to read. Now that, my friends, is boredom! Hours passed, and I wasn’t able to do anything at all. I always pity those who can’t read and write. How much they miss! For me, reading is the first thing I do in the morning and the last I do at night. I read a lot … and fast. I absorb a lot of useful, distracting, educational, and totally useless information each day. (I’m not proud of the useless stuff. But, you’ve been on social media, too….) Writing is akin to reading, except that it’s output instead of input—and it’s a lot harder to get right. I am constantly working on bettering my writing. (Please say you notice.)

“Being weary and restless” is a normal result of working and thinking. Boredom is getting to that point because of  “lack of interest.” Sad, indeed.

Let’s address the problem of “lack of interest” and make some practical applications and helps after that.

I fully believe that children, teens, and adults are bored because they have too much, not too little. Why do women go for “shopping therapy” when there’s not a thing they actually need? Why are children bored when they have two hundred toys in their room—and a back yard to play in? Why are teens bored, while they are constantly texting and chatting with friends? Why are men bored, even though they’re working all the time? I believe it’s because we aren’t content. We’re not engaged in real life.

The Apostle Paul spoke of contentment—while under house arrest and suffering depravations and cold. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11). But godliness with contentment is great gain. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (1 Timothy 6:6, 8).

The author of Hebrews admonished: Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5).

So, how can we change into content, happy individuals who have something profitable to do and aren’t at a loss? Let me share seven principles that might help you.

  1. Less is more. This goes for almost any area in life. Less junk, food choices, furniture, clothing, less on one’s calendar, less activities for children, kitchen gadgets, etc. Less is better. When your parents were young, there simply was a different culture, yet they grew up knowing how to play and enjoy life. They read, hiked, biked, and traveled. They had actual—not virtual—friends with whom they laughed, talked, and visited. (They still have those same friends, by the way.) They knew how to put together old and new. Eclectic style was fine—and homey. They bought quality clothes but less of them. They understood how to mix and match. They weren’t minimalists, but they understood the value of having what you enjoy but not too much. That went for activities, too. Your parents didn’t overcommit themselves or you, and you got to grow up with family times, make memories, have free time to run around outside and be a child.
  2. Contentment can be learned. The Apostle Paul said so, and it’s true. If you’re not content now, with what you have at this moment, you’ll never be content. Contentment begins in the heart, with knowing Jesus. Once your heart is satisfied, you can begin the process of learning to be content in any situation.
  3. Teach your children alternatives to boredom. When a child says, “I’m bored,” he needs something to do—hands on and brain engaged. What would interest your child? Your artistic child might need paper and markers. Your musical child might need to be reminded to practice piano. Your mechanical child might enjoy getting out some Legos or K’nex. Read your children a book. Or, maybe they’d enjoy helping you in the kitchen or helping Daddy with a car repair or washing. Involve your children with you in life, and show them what to do when they’ve lost interest in other things.
  4. Unplug. You may have noticed I haven’t recommended handing your kids a tablet, putting on a movie, or uploading another video game. It’s absolutely fine to see a movie as a family or play clean video games sometimes, but the best way to learn contentment is to be away from gadgets for chunks of time each day. Really live. Really connect with others. Really enjoy doing normal life skills and work. And, for kids, really enjoy making up their own play.
  5. Learn thankfulness. If you really want to be content, you’ll have to learn to be thankful. Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20). In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18). By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name (Hebrews 13:15).
  6. Make a mental (or physical) list of possible activities you enjoy. When you’re bored, what can you do? Take a walk outside—with your phone or camera. Look for beauty. Read that book you haven’t gotten to. Write an encouraging note to someone. Organize meals for next week. Visit Aunt Polly. Bake brownies. I don’t know what makes you happy, but I’m sure you can come up with at least five or six options for when you’re feeling like you need to change things up—and not be bored. You could even make lists for your children of possibilities they may not have thought of.
  7. When you don’t know what to do, ask the Lord. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5). He will help you think of something that’s profitable.

God wants us to be content.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation (Psalm 68:19).

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?