What’s Happening During Your Confinement?

“God’s absence in the carnage is due to one single rather unnerving fact; that at some time past He honored our request that He leave. And if we are not brutally honest with ourselves regarding that choice, it is we ourselves who have set the stage for the next tragedy.” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Never before in the history of humanity we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic. It’s causing a universal reaction – social isolation and fear. Here in the United States there is hysteria about buying up all the toilet paper and hoarding spaghetti noodles.

How are you handling this new life? We live so fast and immediate that having to adjust to a quarantine without an end seems beyond belief. We cannot imagine it. There are no words for what we are experiencing now. It’s just not in our vocabulary.

What are you doing with your life in this new orbit? Sure, there are things you must do. But there is also so much else that’s going on during your quarantine.  Your life is being rolled up with all these experiences that you would never have chosen. They are now a part of your history, every day that follows. Your children have this inserted into their journey.

This is an un-American experience. We have lost freedom, so few of us are pursuing happiness, control is out of our hands. No one likes to be told where and when to go to church, grocery shopping or running in the park.

This is also a great American experience. Each generation needs a common enemy to draw us together and help us to see what “we” truly are. Sometimes in our past that enemy was the brutal frontier. Then it became wars with foreign enemies. We may not remember our medical battles against dark foes like influenza, polio, bird flu, mad cow disease, and SARS. These brought us together to do battle and save our people (especially children).

What are you doing with your life right now while under confinement? I know you’ve been bombarded with suggestions and even some good ideas. I’ve collected a few and am trying some to see how well they help.

“Solitude is a chosen separation for refining your soul. Isolation is what you crave when you neglect the first.” ― Wayne Cordeiro

While you are stuck in your house, you start to pay attention to the place. Maybe it’s time to make some changes?

  • How about moving some of the pictures on your walls around?
  • Don’t you have a closet that desperately needs to be cleaned out?
  • You really are never going to wear those clothes again, why not bag them and donate them?
  • You may need to ask permission, but what about rearranging your furniture?
  • Most Americans have a number of items in the refrigerator that have really gone past their expiration date.

There are probably some bigger projects that you have time to tackle right now:

  • Make some connections with people who need to hear from you (and haven’t in a long time)
  • Aren’t there some books you’ve been meaning to read? Pull them out and hide your TV remote
  • Tax deadlines really will arrive, why not start putting the pieces together? You could develop a system.
  • Anything big out in the yard that needs your attention? It’s only going to get hotter (down here in Houston)
  • Organize your photos, music, contacts, socks?

While you are living a new kind of life pay attention to the quicksand that can happen every day if you’re not careful:

  • Try to set up a routine for each day
  • Come up with some reasonable goals for the week (write them down and post them)
  • Connect with other people during each week, make a list and start to work your way through it
  • Schedule breaks and do something with the people that you love, even it’s on Face-time
  • Don’t let the TV determine your daily routine
  • When you are out, socially distant, smile more often

“An intelligent person, looking out of his eyes and hearkening in his ears, with a smile on his face all the time, will get more true education than many another in a life of heroic vigils”.” ― Robert Louis Stevenson

What about some of the larger and more meaningful projects in your life that deserve special attention now that things are so disoriented?

  • Get in contact with people more often than you would normally
  • Tell people that they matter – when we’re isolated we have fewer experiences that affirm this truth
  • Make a prayer list of people who are especially effected by this disaster
  • Send a meal to someone else
  • Figure out a way to use technology to communicate with others using live images of yourself – let others SEE how well you’re doing
  • Comb your hair, shave your face, make your bed, put on some perfume, act like the real you, not the “shelter in place” you – do who you really are not the who you’ve been forced into

 

Acquainted with the Night
Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

 

 

Does Church Attendance Matter?

“The church is like Noah’s ark. It stinks, but if you get out of it, you’ll drown.” ― Shane Claiborne

Church attendance among younger adults is on the decline

Attendance typically dips at this time but has historically increased once people marry and start families. But today, that number – the return to church – is also on the decline. People are waiting later to have children and more people in America today are living together, not married. Most Americans believe in cohabitation.

This means church attendance is declining in young adulthood and doesn’t seem to be bouncing back.  Add to this an increase in the number of young people in our society who claim to have no religious belief at all. This means that church attendance is on a general decline.

“When introverts go to church, we crave sanctuary in every sense of the word, as we flee from the disorienting distractions of twenty-first-century life. We desire to escape from superficial relationships, trivial communications and the constant noise that pervade our world, and find rest in the probing depths of God’s love.” ― Adam S. McHugh

But every indicator we have has always demonstrated that church attendance has tremendous benefits for both individuals and society. In an effort to spread the word, here are some of the personal benefits of attending church.  These aren’t religious or spiritual reasons – just physical, emotional and social benefits that help to explain why attending church is still a good idea.

  1. People who are a part of a church report that they experience better marriages in all kinds of ways
  2. Longer life (here on earth, even longer in heaven!)
  3. Lower blood pressure – religious practices and beliefs reduce stress and have a measurable effect on overall health
  4. Managing your daily time and overall life is easier for people who are a part of a church community. The routine and the commitment help with life management.
  5. Less susceptible to depression and suicide – especially when you get involved in helping other people through the ministry of your church
  6. Better sleep (not during the sermon!)
  7. Drink less, smoke less, use fewer recreational drugs and are less sexually promiscuous
  8. More friends and a larger support network – wait long enough on this earth and you’re going to desperately need this!
  9. Teenagers who attend with their family (or even on their own) do better in school both  academically and socially
  10. Getting up and going to a worship service and/or a Small Group each week provides a routine in your life, something that helps you to manage all of the unexpected chaos that comes your way.

“Then the singing enveloped me. It was furry and resonant, coming from everyone’s very heart. There was no sense of performance or judgment, only that the music was breath and food.” ― Anne Lamott

What’s on your list of why attending church is good idea?

Sources:

Aleteia

Tyler VanderWeele and John Siniff

Peter Haas

T. M. Luhrmann

The Health and Fitness Revolution

 

 

The Loneliest Moment

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”  ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

But there is something else that the believer can do…

  1. Realize that this earthly world is supposed to fall apart – nothing, including frail relationships can last.
  2. Put faith in your Heavenly Father who has promised to take you through these kinds of disasters, giving you more courage, hope and love in the process.
  3. Open your eyes to the disasters all around you – be present in the lonely moments of even strangers who are watching their own worlds fall apart. Provide an end to loneliness. Be a part of the rescue effort of others.

So when the troubles begin, don’t be afraid. Look up—raise your head high, because the truth is that your liberation is fast approaching. – Luke 21:28 (The Voice)

This kind of liberation is the eternal kind. What we get so distraught about are all the little things that weigh us down and eat us alive again and again. Raise your gaze above all of these kinds of problems and look for what’s surely come – your certain hope.

Remember what hope really means for the Christian, it’s not wishful thinking. It means a confident assurance about what has been promised. Hope in our future draws us through the deep valleys and dark forests of our lives. We know that we never travel alone and what awaits us – a certain deliverance from every tribulation and trial.

Paul prays for the Christians in Rome like this, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

What’s it like when you overflow? According to this prayer request, it’s a supernatural effect, not something we can generate with the right amount of positive thinking, mindfulness and extra yoga… The presence of God in your life gives you hope, confident hope. So much that it flows out of you and touches the lives of everyone else in your life. What’s the evidence? Joy and peace are the fruits of hope. It doesn’t matter how close the fire comes, there’s a song of joy and an unexplainable peace of heart and mind.

Do you feel alone sometimes? Look up. Even if it’s only to notice that bird singing on the fence.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.     
– Emily Dickinson

Why Do We Pray?

“When life caves in, you do not need reasons – you need comfort. You do not need some answers – you need someone. And Jesus does not come to us with an explanation, He comes with Himself.” – Bob Benson

Why do we pray? There are many answers to this question. On most we could all agree. Still, I think there are some reasons that are hidden and secret, known only to God.

Here is my start at addressing some of the reasons why I think we pray, why I pray, why God has called all of us to pray.

We pray because we are alone and powerless.

We have all drifted away with our busy lives and then a crisis strikes. There is so much we can fix on our own. These may not be perfect solutions but they are ours. Then something strikes at us that’s just too much. Our self-sufficiency cannot protect us. Most of us want answers right away. An easy and painless solution that will solve the looming threat. Don’t you?

Instead, what we need is a nearness to the living God. The great distraction is the search for a fix. Unfortunately, it is an endless quest, to find answers to problems for a life that keeps coming unraveled. Isn’t there a way to live and experience less aloneness and accomplish more?

For apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

Here Jesus is teaching about the vine and the branches. He is the source of our life and we are to live attached to him, branching out from him, growing out of his will and way.

  1. It seems that we are meant to be doing something with our lives, something that matters.
  2. The plan all along has been to be with God, to live a life that is always in fellowship with him.
  3. To live apart is a disaster, not just a preference (life choice). Read the rest of the parable. Do you smell smoke?
  4. When we pray, we are joined with God – our heart, mind and soul. We all need to live a daily life of prayer so that we will be less prone to wander away from our Heavenly Father.

Our aloneness isn’t the cause of our inner struggles, it’s the effect of living separated from God. What are you doing, thinking, worrying, planning, auto-piloting, judging, failing, reaching? Why are we living any aspect of our lives apart from God?

I doubt most of us consciously make decisions to wander away from our relationship with God. Instead, I think we get distracted by the cares of life. Fast-paced living sets my spiritual attention into an automatic mode. Rituals and routines lose their meaning and purpose. Sometimes I look up and wonder about all the miles and sights that I’ve missed. My attention and soul was somewhere else. What about you?

“My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” – John 10:10

Apart from walking with Jesus each day, you cannot live the rich and satisfying life that he intends for you to live now.  You cannot live in fellowship with God unless you are living in a conversational and transformational relationship. You have to be on speaking terms. You have to realize that things are never going to stop changing. This is an essential reminder that I must look in the eye each day.

Look at what Paul wrote about a life lived in fellowship with God:

“When I think of all this (God’s mysterious plan), I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”  – Ephesians 3:14-21

Paul had to remain conscious of what God had, was and will do in His great plan. That consciousness on his part was a constant reminder that he was never alone and God’s transformative power was always at work.

Lasting transformation isn’t going to happen on my own. No matter how many self-help books I buy at the airport. We all need a supernatural relationship. Living near to God matters. Living away from him is a fully furnished house you walk around in all alone at night.

But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do. – Psalm 73:28