Social Distance is an Oxymoron

Social Distance is an Oxymoron

I am sure that I am not the only one who has been clearly confused at how we can be alone together. Being in small crowds as our only choice has left us feeling weirdly normal and in some ways like the walking dead. Another side effect of the quarantine has been overeating as I now look like a jumbo shrimp.

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The word social by definition means; someone or something that enjoys being with others or has to do with people living or gathering in groups.  Distant means separated, far away or not immediately connected.  The very definitions are opposites and don’t belong together but are a new social phenomenom .

As a registered nurse I understand all the rationale for quarantine and precautions and I do comply. My heart has a hard time seeing empty churches– they were built for corporate worship. Playgrounds were built for playing in, beaches are for swimming and exploring and parks to picnic in etc…. Isn’t it amazing that a tiny virus – invisible to the naked eye – has temporarily turned the whole world upside down?

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From the beginning of time God created us for community. He states in the book of Genesis that, “it is not good for man to be alone”.  God created us for a relationship with Him and each other. Adam and Eve also tended The Garden – maybe that’s why I love spring.  He also created the Sabbath for rest and in today’s culture – we don’t often take it.

It has been so easy to be distracted and depressed during this time because it is not normal.  The dreary weather did not help our state of mind.  Our usual schedule has been disrupted by restrictions and additions. Now we have the extra time we always wanted but can’t go anywhere! Frustrating!

King Solomon stated that nothing is new under the sun.  He was right! There have been plagues throughout the centuries and various responses to them. Economies have risen and fallen while people groups have been separated and humanity has lived in fear and uncertainty.  But fear is a great energy gobbler and serves no purpose if we do not do something.

We cannot change our circumstances but we can choose to change our response and attitude. We cannot be alone together – it’s an oxymoron – but we can keep in contact due to technology (zoom zoom). But be careful, I know that I am guilty of wasting too much time with electronics. We also need to be very aware of what we read and repost on social media because it is not all true or unbiased!   It is important to choose wisely what input is allowed into our over taxed brains.

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What have you learned?  I learned that most of us have far more than we need (like hoarding toilet paper) and I do not have to be on the go all the time.  I am trying to be grateful and content in all circumstances (it’s hard).  I have enjoyed walking more and playing board games and alternative learning. I enjoy watching the birds return and plants grow. What have you enjoyed during this shut down?

God is in control – He sees us, hears us and knows us by name. Hold tight to His promises and trust in His love and faithfulness for He will guide you through this amazingly awful and bittersweet time.

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Peace and Joy in Difficult Circumstances

Peace and Joy in Difficult Circumstances

Do you ever have times when a particular theme keeps reoccurring? Maybe you just read about a topic and then you see a sign about it or hear a song on the radio that reminds you again. God has been whispering in my ear… “Child, pay attention”.

I just finished a month long study on the book of Philippians. One of the main themes is Joy and another is Peace. Joy is not a fleeting or a superficial and soon forgotten feeling but a deep inner emotion that lasts and is remembered. Russell M Nelson stated, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”

In this pandemic crisis and world of social distancing it is hard to feel joyful. Instead,we are afraid, depressed, sad, overwhelmed and over worked. Our brains are tired from adjusting and trying to live with new restrictions, changing rules and new expectations. Remember, the apostle Paul was writing from prison when he challenged the early Church.

                    Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice        Phil 4:4

We are to make the Lord our focus and not our circumstances. He is the source of our strength in each new day.  Our relationship with Him needs to take higher priority over anything else. It’s easy in times like this to reverse that order but we will only feel more exhausted. When I am “too busy” to read my Bible and pray I end up with a bad attitude and more stress.

Contrary to popular opinion, Christians do not have to have it all together. It’s okay to feel burnt out, confused or frazzled….or whatever emotion you may be feeling. And it is okay to have good days and bad ones. That is the only thing normal right now. Most Moms weren’t planning to run their own one room schoolhouse. Most service people weren’t expecting to be facing a health risk on the job. We were created for community not isolation. Every day we are facing a lot of uncertainty and it is stressful but we can choose our focus and adjust our attitude.

Anxiety is a joy robber. It’s been said that “worry is like sitting in a rocking chair – you think you are moving but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.      Phil 4:5-7

Remember “the Lord is near” : we need to live with an awareness of God’s presence (read Psalm 139:1-12 and Joshua 1:8,9)  Other translations for “reasonableness” are; be considerate, gentleness, forbearance, work together. God gave us our emotions so it’s okay to talk to Him about how you are feeling. Get it off your chest – He already knows anyway. When we leave our fear and doubt at His feet we exchange those negative feelings for inner peace. He will guard our hearts and minds – our attitudes, emotions and thoughts.

Our problems are real and won’t go away instantly but our hearts can change. Faith is exercised when things cannot be seen. We can have peace and joy in difficult circumstances when we remind ourselves that God is Sovereign and in control. We choose to trust in His faithfulness and promises for each day – one at a time.

 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you       2 Cor 13:11

 

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Second Chances

Second Chances

Have you ever felt as if you missed an important opportunity?  Have you had a falling out with a friend and feel it is now a lost cause? Maybe you said or did something that cannot be taken back. Sometimes by grace we are given a second chance.

Our Pastor just finished a series on the book of Jonah. Jonah liked when things were going well and his way. He rejected the assignment God gave him to preach to the ruthless pagan city of Nineveh. He refused to go, hopped on a ship going the opposite direction and as weJonah know got thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish. Vomited by the fish – Jonah was given a second chance. He did go and give God’s message of repentance to the city and they responded. What preacher gets angry when people do what he tells them to do? Jonah did!  Sadly, the story ends with God questioning Jonah because he had received great mercy and compassion but his heart for others that were different had not changed.

The disciple Peter had been one of the three closest to Jesus. He witnessed most if not all of Jesus’ miracles and Jesus spent a lot of time at Peter’s house in Capernaum. Best buddies, right?

After following the crowd to the court yard to watch what was happening, Peter ended up denying even knowing Jesus. Why?  Fear can cause us to do terrible things. Peter’s guilt and shame was overwhelming but there was no way to take it back. Later he was with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them and understood there was more to learn. But in the meantime, he and some of the others went back to what they knew best – fishing.

It was in the fishing village of Tabgha that Jesus greeted the disciples with a cooked

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breakfast on the shore.  Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love ME?” and Peter each time replied Yes Lord – you know my heart. The reply to “feed MY sheep” was his mission. God was not finished with Peter and was giving him a second chance.  Peter had been told he would be the “rock” of the Church, one of the founders –and that had not changed because he messed up.

That little beach has an eighth century church built on the rock where it is believed they ate.  It is called “Mensa Christi” – “Our Lords’ Table”.  The Church is known as “The Primacy of Peter”….Peter was forgiven, restored and called to special service for the Lord as Head of the early Church. He obeyed God’s calling with great courage and fervor. We have copies of his letters to the early believers which hold great teaching and truth for us today. Peter used his second chance to change the world by preaching the Good News.

This should be a great encouragement for us. No matter how far we have gone or what we have done, God is full of love and mercy. We can come to Him with humble hearts and ask for forgiveness. No, not everything broken can be fixed. God often gives us something new and better to reach for with our second chance.

From Veggie Tales – Second Chances

You see God’s a God of mercy

God’s a God of love

And right now, He’s gonna lend

A helping hand from up above

Praise the Lord, He’s the God of second chances

You’ll be floored how His love your life enhances

You can be restored from your darkest circumstances

Our God is the God of second chances!

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Hope is Alive

Hope is Alive

We call today “Good Friday” but over 2000 years ago it was anything but good.  The disciples of Jesus’ whole world had been turned upside down in one day. Confusion, womenatcrossDisbelief, Fear, Heartbreak and Shock were just a few of the emotions they were feeling. Rabbi, healer, miracle worker, they believed Jesus was The Messiah! The band of friends had just celebrated Passover together. It couldn’t possibly be real – it didn’t make sense – but they watched with their own eyes as the soldiers nailed Him to a cross like a vile criminal!

Some of the men and women, faithful followers of Jesus, gathered together trying to grasp the situation and others were in hiding. It was now the Sabbath and there was nothing they could do. How could everything go wrong in such a short time? He hadn’t done anything to deserve what happened. The disciples had put all their hope in Him and now it seemed gone.

While  Jesus hung on the cross He forgave the repentant thief, showing us that it is never to late to ask for forgiveness until our last breath.  On Passover HE provided the one and only perfect, holy and final sacrifice. His last cry  “It is finished” was not a cry of defeat but of victory.  The Temple curtain kept everyone and everything away from the holiness of God.  When the massive curtain tore in half it showed the access we now have to come before a Holy God through Jesus’s own blood sacrifice.

Jesus’ body had been quickly laid in a borrowed tomb just before Sabbath began. Early the next morning a few women gathered to go to the tomb and properly prepare His body for burial as was tradition.  They wondered how they would move the stone sealing the grave and if the soldiers would give them grief.  jesustombBut as they approached the burial site they were shocked to see the stone had already been rolled away….

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead…..                                          Matt 28:5-7

Jesus is alive! He soon after met with them, ate with them and explained the Scriptures about Himself. Christians around the world celebrate Easter because our hope is not based on earthly wishful thinking but assurance from God. Jesus’ sacrifice provides forgiveness and restoration in our relationship with The Father. His resurrection offers us power and victory for everyday.

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Tragedy can strike quickly and indiscriminately and it may seem hopeless. We are left reeling to try and make sense of the circumstances and figure out the next steps. That’s how the disciples felt on Good Friday.  Right now our daily lives are disrupted, loved ones are distanced and many people have died.  But Our Hope is Alive!

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.        John 3:16

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.         Heb 4:15-16

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,      Heb 6:19

 

                           We are loved.  We have help. We have hope. We can have peace.

 

Because He Lives

God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus,

He came to love, heal and forgive

He lived and died to buy my pardon

An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Because He lives I can face tomorrow

Because He lives  all fear is gone

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living just because He lives!

Covid-19 and the Plagues of Egypt

Covid-19 and the Plagues of Egypt

During this Lenten season the much beloved movie, “The Ten Commandments”, staring Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner will be on television at least once.  I could not help but compare our current situation to the plagues that infected Egypt and our responses today.

Pharoah430 yrs. after Jacob and his family came to Egypt in good standing, a Pharaoh rose to power that did not know of Joseph or His God. God saw the oppression and cruelty the people faced and commissioned Moses to face off with Pharaoh. There was no way Pharaoh would let his slave labor force just walk away. So God sent a succession of plagues to annoy and exasperate all the Egyptians into letting the people go. The first two plagues affected everyone in the land. Can you imagine having frogs in your bed or to open your cereal cupboard and have frogs jump out?

The next seven plagues were sent to make a distinction between the Israelites and the Egyptian people. The last plague – the death of the first born – showed God’s ultimate Sovereignty over all life. Passover is a remembrance of His power, presence and the protection of His people.

The Egyptian gods were silent. They could not help, heal or protect from any of the plagues.  Pharaohs’ heart just became harder as he refused to believe and bow to the true God of Heaven and Earth. Out of grief, anger and frustration he finally ordered the Israelites to leave the country.moses part red sea But he later recanted and sent his army to chase the people to the edge of the Red Sea. (My favorite part in the movie)

 

 

The succession of plagues may have lasted up to a year. As soon as one plague got better God sent another. God’s people survived all of the plagues, took riches with them and walked through the Sea on dry land. But after all these incredible miracles we read that it didn’t take very long for them to start complaining.

I do not believe God sent Covid-19 as a punishment but does He have your attention? During this National crisis the gods of this world have been silenced. Our celebrity sports precautions hospitalare closed down, mega star musicians silenced, meeting places emptied and we are left with a lot of unknowns. Our God is not silent! His Word has a lot to say about trusting Him for today and the future. We are facing an unprecedented worldwide crisis. This virus and its global spread was a huge surprise to physicians and governments but is not a surprise to Him.

One of my favorite scripture passages tells us to be reasonable, focus our minds on the good and not negative media. We will experience true peace when we pray about our concerns and leave them with Him.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.    Phil 4:4-7 

 

Our friends and family are watching to see how we face this crisis.We can share that we are not alone and God is in control. Let us share the hope we have because of Easter- the ultimate love of God.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.                                                                                                                                                     Isaiah 43:1-3 

No matter what restrictions may be put in place and the uncertainty of the future economy, our God is in control. Especially during Lent, let us thank God as we remember His faithfulness  recorded in The Bible for us. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.                                                                                                                                        Isaiah 26:3 

 

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The Recipe for Life

Does anyone still keep a cookbook and or a recipe box? I do. With Google we can look up a “ba –jillion” variations in a second but it is impersonal. My box is a form of heirloom.  _20200311_122104 It is filled with scraps cut from magazines, hand copied family favorites and shared recipes from friends. I also have handwritten recipes from my mother and mother-in-law. No big family secrets; favorites yes! I keep these for their handwriting because it brings memories.

God’s Word holds the recipe for life.  Hand written by many authors over centuries it contains history, stories, encouragement and wisdom passed down through the ages. Within its pages are “recipes” for every issue we face and my Bible favorites are well marked.

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The basic rules for successful and civilized living are found in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. But the Bible is alive and gives very practical advice such as:

 

Friends and Neighbors – get along

You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.    Lev 19:18

Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.                                                      Prov 27:10

Live in harmony with one another.    Romans 12:16

Loneliness – never alone

 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?                                                                                                                   Psalms 139:7

I am with you always, to the end of the age.              Matt 28:20

Marriage – committment

 Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and bride-1837148_1920female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”                                                                                           Matt 19:4-6

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your life     Eccl 9:9

 Parenting –  responsibility

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.                                                                                                                                Prov 22:6

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.  Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.                                                                                                                                              Prov 29: 15 &17

 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2  “Honor your father and mother” —4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.                                                    Eph 6:1-4

Peace  vs. Worry

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.                      John 14:27

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.                                                                                                                                      Phil 4:5-7

Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?                                                                                                                                                Matt 6:25-26

Speech –  wisdom for today

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.                                                                                                                                                                James 1:19,20

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.    Prov 21:23

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.           Prov 15:1-2

 

Of course there are many more “recipes for life” within the Bible’s pages.  I encourage you to look them up for yourself.  If you do, life will be more savory and satisfying!

 

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Our Daily Bread is Not on a Menu

Our Daily Bread is Not on a Menu

Once in awhile my husband and I like to dress up and go out for a fancier dinner than table-3018151_1920our usual Mexican Cafe.  We go for the ambiance, white tablecloths and candlelight, expecting good food and good service.  The waiter comes out with a large menu to delight our palate…Oh so many choices! We sit and contemplate each section while picking and choosing what we want to fill our senses and satisfy our hunger.

Our Pastor mentioned in a sermon that we might be guilty of treating prayer that way.  I think I am sometimes.  Prayer becomes just a daily duty when we only ask for what we want and thank Him for what we have.  We treat God like a Heavenly Waiter.  We Thank Him for the food and great service while we leave our leftovers and dirty dishes behind for Him to clean up.

God is not a waiter, Santa or a magic genie just waiting to fulfill our wishes.  Prayer is direct communication with Our Heavenly Father, Our Creator – the One Who sent His only Son to die in our place! Since the very beginning of time God has longed to have a relationship with His Creation. Jesus gave His disciples a model for prayer that we can follow too.

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Our Father in heaven –  Our Heavenly Abba or Dad, unlike our earthly fathers  He is the One Who knows everything about us and promises to always be with us.  He is all powerful and can never fail.

Hallowed be your Name.  – Holy, praise and glory to, reverence and awe to, your Name above all Names.  We fail to worship Him for Who He is.

Your kingdom come – Are we building His Kingdom (sharing the gospel) and looking for His return?  It could be soon!

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  –  Recognize that He reigns over Heaven and earth. It’s not what I want but trusting that He knows better than I do. He sees all our circumstances and is Sovereign and in control.

Give us this day our daily bread – He provides daily for our every need; food, clothing, shelter, friends, family and way beyond.  Make your own list of blessings not just wants.

and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors – Forgiveness is freeing and powerful. We do not deserve having Someone die in our place! We mess up every day.  But we also have to forgive others to have true peace in our hearts.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. – be mindful of the things that trip you up. Stay away from temptation and ask for that way to escape and overcome.                                                                Matt 6:9-13 (ESV)

 

Jesus taught a lot about prayer.   First we should make sure our thoughts and motives are pure when we pray and keep short accounts with God. He does encourage us to ask for our hearts desire because God longs to give His children good gifts. He hears us, sees us and knows our pain and every need and we can trust Him in all situations.

During this Lenten season let us be more mindful of how we pray. Let us not be complacent or so casual as to treat Him like our personal waiter. If we follow Jesus’ model we can pray powerful prayers that make a difference in our lives and those around us.

Praise God from Whom All blessings Flow

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