Thoughts from a Distance

Week number three of the new reality the Coronavirus pandemic has brought is just getting rolling in my part of the world. As we watch cities like NYC and New Orleans deal with massive outbreaks, the depth of the crisis is beginning to dawn on the rest of us. Social distancing isn’t just a funny new concept to close-talkers or the life-long dream of introverts everywhere…it’s a life-saving necessity. As the number of cases rises across the country everyone is feeling it in one way or another, directly or indirectly. Our economy is reeling as a record number of people filed unemployment claims last week. Life as most of us know it has ground to a halt, and it doesn’t appear we’ve really begun to see the results.

However, in light of all the terrible and bad, I’ve been thinking of some things I hope I don’t forget when this is all said and done. In no particular order:

  • Technology is also a god-send in this time! So grateful for Zoom and FaceTime and Hangouts to see and hear from my family and friends! Sunday we had a group call with almost all of 4 generations of my family spread out from here to NC. That was wonderful! And throughout the week I’ve been able to check in with friends from church, pray together and encourage one another. This wouldn’t be possible in our current situation without technology.
  • Technology, though a blessing, does not and should not replace face to face connection with people. I’m the king of sending a text instead of calling someone, and now, even with the ability to call, I just want to sit with my friends/family and have a cup of coffee, face to face. I hope I never take those moments for granted again.
  • Technology can be essential for some. This one hit me like a freight train this week: for some their 24-7 365 reality is what we’re feeling right now regarding isolation and social-distancing. We know precious people who, due to chronic illness, are not able to participate in much of the things we all are now realizing we take for granted. Figuring out ways to leverage technology and care AFTER this is over is one of the things I really don’t want to let fall by the wayside. I hope this wakes us all up to ways we can care for those on the margins of our lives.
  • Pressure sure does reveal a lot about a person (myself no exception).
  • The church is the people of God not the place they meet. This saying became cliche’ over the years, but the past few weeks have made us realize why cliches are…cliche’: they’re true. Watching folks, not just in our church but around the world, come alongside one another and their communities, caring in big and small ways, being the hands and feet of Jesus outside the Sunday service…my word, it’s beautiful.
  • Stupid fights about the politics, the past and petty grievances don’t matter. This one deserves a post of it’s own. Quit taking sides and actually love one another (working on this one myself).
  • Small businesses matter, and big businesses matter, too. Why? Because people depend on them for their livelihoods. I work for a small business, and we’re feeling it big time. I also have friends who work for businesses both tiny and large…and everyone is feeling this: reduced hours, layoffs, potential closures, fear, worry, etc. Granted, some are feeling it worse than others, but I have never lived through something that has literally touched everyone like this virus has: from the waiters at the local Tex-Mex place to the CEO of the oil company downtown, this is on everyone’s radar.
  • Pro-life means all of life, cradle to grave. Boy, it shocked me how quickly the veneer was stripped back on many who cling to the political bumper sticker “pro-life” but were willing to rip it off quickly as the Dow Jones tumbled. These times are revealing the depths of all of our hearts, but some of the rhetoric around the elderly and aged this week was utterly wicked. We must do better. After this is over, those who stand for life need to wake up and stand for ALL of life: the unborn, the homeless, the immigrant, the disabled, the elderly…ALL.
  • Our neighbors have names. We need to know them.
  • Working from home is a luxury. It may not be the easiest place to jump on a conference call or think through a tough problem, but to even have the option to continue working while others process unemployment claims or wonder if the rent will be paid…yeah…very grateful for my job, and very much aware of those who aren’t so lucky.
  • Books are amazing- truly a gift. One of our favorite things during this season has been joining author and song-writer Andrew Peterson for a read-along of his “Wingfeather Saga” books (he’s reading a few chapters a night at 7pm CST if you care to jump into the story). If you like Narnia and Middle Earth, or just great fiction in general, you need to get these books. And if you have a heart, I guarantee you’ll need tissues by the end. My son, who is learning to read and most days isn’t the biggest fan, is eating this up! In addition to our nightly ritual, we’ve all been reading a lot more of late, and I’m grateful. I often lament the lack of time to read all the books I have on the shelf, or in my library queue. This season has us spending a bit more time in books than on the tele, realizing Netflix is fun for a bit, but time can be better spent.
  • Music, also, is a gift. Oh my word, how this has come home to roost! A quick glance at social media can show how this gift unites us. Artists and performers of all kinds have taken to social media for concerts, live streams, etc. Who will soon forget the videos of Italians in quarantine singing to one another from their balconies? I’ve picked up my guitar far more than usual, and I pick it up a LOT. The kids are walking around with ear buds in humming along, or sitting at the piano, or playing uke in their room. I’ve always loved music…but I think I’ll appreciate it a bit more once this darkness lifts.
  • In that vein: man, do I miss singing with our church! Yes, we can lift our voices anywhere, but don’t you miss those moments when you no longer hear yourself, but everyone around you singing the same song to God? I promise you, I’ll be a wreck when we’re able to gather together and do that again.
  • I still get to hug my wife and kids every night, but so very many do not/cannot right now. Talk about something you take for granted. My heart aches for the doctors and nurses who cannot hug their little ones right now. And also for all of us who can’t hug our parents for fear of giving them this scourge, or those who have lost their mom or dad in this and weren’t able to be there at the end. Hug the ones you love…often as you can. Who knows if you’ll get the chance again?
  • The gratitude I have for my family has deepened. A few years ago we were desperate for time together, though I honestly hardly realized it until after the fact (I’m not the quickest to get the obvious). It took a career change and cross-country move to bring it about. Yet in the interim, I’ve begun taken it for granted again. This is helping me realize how easy it is to do that. Whether it’s playing hockey in the driveway with my son, talking to my daughter about boys (oh yeah, THAT happened during this mess!!!), having deep convos about life with another, or simply sitting together watching a movie, I want to soak up every moment.
  • Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” Andy Dufresne said these words in that masterpiece of page and cinema, “Shawshank Redemption.” The apostle Paul said it first: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” I long for the day when faith and hope are no more, because all things are made new, sickness and sorrow are no more, and every tear is wiped from every eye. Until then, walking in faith and love (God willing), I’ll hold on to the hope that the Kingdom is coming, even in this mess, and all things are being renewed as it does.

I could go on and on, and I’m sure you could, too.

Life is precious. Times like this wake us up to the small things, as well as the big things we all want to ignore. I hope you take some time (we all have it right now) to consider the things in your life which you’re grateful for, as well as the things that are being revealed which need to change.

Stay safe, y’all. And wash those hands.

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