Being Still

I expected Easter weekend to be full of far flung friends gathered for a special wedding celebration—a dear friend united in marriage in the witness of many other dear friends.

A big celebration surrounded by many other little celebrations of a community separated and once again united for a weekend.

As shut downs and shelter-in-places spread across the world, the celebrations are delayed, the wedding postponed as we all wait for the unknown.

Our plans all yielded…

We may never be so closely linked in experience or feeling with the followers of Christ this Easter season. The joys of Spring Break in early March feel like Palm Sunday when life seemed like it was going well. An expectation of wonderful Spring!

The snowball of our restrictions parallel the turn of events during Holy Week as Jesus went from a heralded king to a hunted and betrayed man. Life turned upside down for Jesus’ followers.

A much anticipated celebration season flipped to unexpected mourning.

As they witnessed Jesus’ procession with His cross, this man they had followed everywhere for three years, did they think what we think now about our plans…this should not to be? I never saw this coming?

And, when Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb and the Sabbath began, and they sat in their homes did they sit stunned like we do now?

I don’t know what is next? Life as I know it is flipped upside down. What happens when this is over? When we emerge from our homes to a new reality? The ones passed over and not taken by this pandemic.

We wonder about our jobs, whether our kids will go back to school, what our community will suffer. The disciples also worried about their jobs and their lives… what they would suffer when those in power came looking for them the first chance they could leave their home.

Our world, with so many people, has never been so still as on this Passover, this Easter weekend. I have never experienced alongside so many others such uncertainty about what is next.

With all the unexpected quiet and stillness in my home right now, all the itching eagerness to escape and do something, anything else…I identify with Jesus’ followers in a new way this weekend.

Unlike them, I have the hope of knowing the next part of the story for us as followers of Jesus. The joy of the resurrection. The assurance of redemption and the security of a new purpose as His follower that the disciples would soon discover.

But, this weekend, I can identify with them…a party weekend upset and turned into a weekend of wondering quiet waiting for a new, uncertain day.

Truth and Morality

I like to peruse the Nextdoor app, well, daily. It’s fun to see what’s happening in the hood…sometimes its just entertaining. Other times its downright chilling to see how people respond to events in our community.

People are posting pictures of folks they don’t know who aren’t following the law of social distancing. They’re sharing some pretty extreme hostilities towards those who are stockpiling toilet paper. We don’t even know who’s stockpiling it, but someone is because there’s no toilet paper!

By the way, you can use this handy toilet paper calculator to assess how long your stash is going to last you. The advanced feature is pretty awesome. If its going to last you til September, well, you might be the one people don’t like very much right now.

But its really struck me how morality is at an all time high. There is a right and a wrong way to act during this crisis according to many, some of them actual scientists and doctors. The right way has to do with protecting others, looking out for others, and not thinking just about yourself.

And, its based on truth. This itty, bitty, tiny, little organism we can’t even see with our naked eye is passing between us, killing people, and bringing the entire world to its knees. The closer we stand and the more we interact, the worse it will get.

Facts. Math. They support this reality.

We cannot escape the truth though we act sometimes like it doesn’t apply to us. Acting like it doesn’t apply doesn’t make it not true. The reality of “the curve” will show us how well we are aligning with truth as a whole community.

Right now, it don’t look so good. And why should it? Morality and truth have been situational for so long that when we are backed up into this kind of wall, its so confusing! At the grocery store or neighborhood park, its not ok anymore that “you do you.” It means someone you may not even know will pay the price. The noblest act of love in the era of Covid-19 is to deny yourself for others.

And truth has never been so valued as it seems to be at press conferences right now. What people say and what they have said and done matters deeply. Did elected officials trade on inside information? There is a very significant and important judgement to be made that depends on what is true in that situation.

Do we want to elect such people to make decisions for our society. Most people, I think, would say no. So truth matters. We want people to follow a code that is fair and considers others, not just ourselves. We must judge these matters fairly in an age when not being judged is pretty popular.

Right now, there is a ban on elective surgeries where I am. The central basis is to look out for the life of others by conserving beds, medical supplies, and limiting risks for exposure. This week, my mother’s doctor had to defend, document in detail, and be prepared to explain the surgery my mom needed in ways he didn’t have to before. Waiting on her surgery would certainly mean an urgent risk to her life in the coming weeks when beds, supplies, and exposure will be much worse.

We hear of cancer patients facing different and limited decisions for treatment based on these factors. What a month ago would have been the best plan is now not because of risks of exposure. What a tough position to be in. Yet, there are law cases advocating for surgeries for non-life threatening, but very deeply difficult issues, like unwanted pregnancy.

Our society has to face these very moral questions now. Does one person get to use up medical resources to deal with a non-life threatening (but very physically and emotionally difficult) issue while another person with a life threatening issue cannot receive surgery?

When the main code for most behavior as it relates to our interconnected society is to preserve the lives of many we do not even know, our culture is inconsistent. We still want what we want and we still don’t really want to look out for others in key ways.

So, what are we to do with all our inconsistency? What do we do when we are backed up against a wall of morality and truth? When the issues don’t seem like life and death, its easier to squirm away.

My hope in all this upheaval and chaos is that we, as a world, will acknowledge that we all have an innate sense to some degree of morality and truth and it is a good thing. But it also leads us down a path we must follow to the end.

Where does this moral code and truth come from? Why do we have it? Why does everyone seem to agree worldwide that lives matter enough to shut down everything to save 1-2% of our population?

If you’re an atheist, it doesn’t make sense. You should welcome the culling of our weaker population. It is more consistent with an atheistic position it seems to me. No need to socially distance. Of course, I would think that the atheist must hope they are not considered in the 1-2%.

If you’re agnostic, the universal morality and desire for truth must mean something. If you can’t abide the atheistic mindset, its no longer the time to sit on the fence. If life matters, then its time to really decide who God really is. If God’s a God that values life and has fashioned us with a similar innate mind…to value life as well…wouldn’t life be better lived aligned with Him?

If so, who is God? The search must begin and be carried out in earnest.

To the Christian, this really exposes us. Do we care about lives as much as we say we do? As much as God does? Do we love like God loves? Do we know His love enough to trust Him with our futures economically, in matters of life and death, to talk about how much He loves people and doesn’t want anyone to die without knowing Him and His forgiveness of our incredible selfishness?

With the world at its knees, its time to talk. Or if we don’t really know His love for us, to dig deeper and get to know the trinitarian God of the Bible more deeply. My experience is that drawing closer to the God of the Bible has driven me towards His love and towards loving others.

Many will say God does not love the world. That He does not even exist or things wouldn’t be like this. That He is judging the world and He’s being really unfair and harsh.

Love like God’s love is not to be trifled with, true. It is pure and rejecting His gift does leave people in the cold. But it is fair and it should compel us to urgently invite everyone in to sit at His table.

But what is true about God—whether He exists, whether He has the right to say what is true and what is not, what is right and what is not—it matters whether we live by it or not.

Ultimately, at the end of life, there is no squirming away. If its true that God is the source of truth and morality, we will be at His mercy.

If its not true, what does it matter how we live our lives right now? There’s really not many people that would say that out loud right now. They’d be relegated to the depths of social hell for the rest of their lives for acting in their own interests.

So, Covid-19 puts us up against the wall. It’s time for us to decide about God, who He is and what it means for our life and the lives of those around us.

Spoiler alert, it’s not so bad, in fact, its so, so good to be at peace with God.

Choking Down the Air

We started a new game in the car on the way to school this week.  Guess the pollution level.  My daughter wins more than I do.  I refrain from guessing until we round the corner that spits us out on the highway.  My guess always depends on how well I can see the large mountain.  Some days I can’t see it at all.  Like today.  On a clear day a tall hill rises in the distance with a pagoda at the top.  It stands a quarter mile away. IMG_0223[1]

I knew when I woke up and descended the stairs that the level bumped up from yellow, orange, to red, and most likely, to deep maroon.  It smelled like someone lit a campfire outside our front door.  The pollution app confirmed my suspicions.  It is a deep maroon day.  Bad.  I feel angry and exasperated.  Why, Lord?  Why do people still burn their fields?  Why do factories belch out particulate matter?  Why is the coal burned in its dirtiest state?  I rail in my mind against the injustices that I live in, but I choose to live here…in all these injustices.  How can I complain?  I don’t know but I find my way to complaining pretty fast!

Then, I ponder sending my kids to school.  Will it help to keep them at home?  Inside?  Not much.  The lack of seals anywhere at all means the pollution drifts into our home and we do not own an air filter.  Air filters help a little, I’m sure, but one doctor told me it’s about as effective as putting an air purifier outside.  I kept my one thousand dollars.  I decided to send the kids to school but request no outside playground time for them.

I think of my friend whose child is recovering from a bout of pneumonia.  How will he deal with this?  I heard my downstairs neighbor coughing continuously last night and then again this morning.  How will he deal with this?  How does anyone deal with the choking smoke?  Do I take him an emergency inhaler and teach him to use it?

My choices spread before me.  Ignore it hoping I can push down all the feelings of anger and frustration.  Hmmm not easy.  Or, I can scramble all the resources I have to lessen the impact knowing the limited chance of success.  At some point I must open my door for something.

My other choice is to escape.  We can drive to the airport and pass over a slim plastic card and our little blue booklets and leave.  Just get on a plane and fly away.  I like that choice when I only think of myself.  But when I think of my friends who have no slim plastic card or little blue booklet with an eagle on the front, my face sobers up a little.  It’s not fair.  It feels criminal to use my freedom and privilege that came merely through birth to escape what others cannot.

The choice I don’t want to make is to accept it and let all the mix of emotions play out while I live my life one step at a time in the midst of the smog.  It drives me to my  knees.  I pray for a strong wind.  I confess my anger and sin for dropping a cuss bomb at a reckless driver.  Thankfully the car was empty but still…but still, that is what dwells in my heart.

Actually, this is not a bad place to sit.  I realize my dependency on the Lord for my very life and the lives of my children and my spouse and my friends.  I face my sinful response to a sinful world.  My deep longings for a world without sin, pollution, sickness, death, and injustice rise up and I long for the Day of the Lord.

The apostle Paul comes to mind. He possessed the ancient version of a blue passport with an eagle on it, Roman citizenship.  And, he used it when it prolonged his life.  I wonder what he felt when he claimed all the benefits of citizenship to appeal to Caesar.  Did he struggle with his privilege?

I bet my Bible will crack open to that theme today at some point.  I want to dig a little deeper.

What trials drive you to the Word today?

Why Do I Blog?

I write because choosing just the right word to describe my daily life in light of God’s grace energizes me.  I understand who I am and my life more deeply when I put words to it.  I crystallize those feelings, that insight, these experiences with words.  I digest God’s truth from the Bible when I write.

My journal pages fill up with private concerns.  Newsletters serve a different purpose.  Occasionally I receive a grade on a paper.  I longed for an outlet for the thoughts that rattled in my head.

I write on a blog because I write when I blog and a few people told me they wanted to hear my voice.

Why do you write?