Finding Peace During the Pandemic

Global pandemicState of Emergency.  Corona virus.

These are words that have rattled our sense of well-being and fed our fears.

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I’ve watched as the unseen enemy creeps closer. First it was overseas, then the virus arrived in the U.S. and spread to my state. Now we have the first confirmed cases in my rural county.

Even if you or someone you know doesn’t have COVID-19, I’m sure you could list multiple ways your world is different now.  I know I can.

The first wave of impact hit me at the college where I work. We’ve been scrambling to move classes to online learning, cancel multiple events/travel, and mobilize staff to transition to working from home.

Then the effect became even more personal. The community theatre production I was looking forward to participating in was cancelled. My 401(k) began to tank as the stock market plunged. My church moved its services to Facebook Live broadcasts, and my hairdresser suspended her operations.

But perhaps nothing provided greater evidence that life has changed than when I made a trip to Walmart two weeks ago. The gaping shelves and people nervously foraging for staples was like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. Even the behemoth Amazon, who I could always rely on to deliver whatever I wanted in two days can’t keep items in stock.

 

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And of course, there’s the infamous toilet paper shortage. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have to ration TP—but I’ve learned that I can get the job done with just three squares. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited as when a box containing toilet paper arrived on my front porch.

Obviously, the things I’ve experienced can mostly be described as inconveniences in comparison to what people who have lost income or are fighting the disease are going through, but the stress all of us are feeling is real.

In times like this we often feel powerless, so I’d like to suggest seven things you can do to help increase your level of peace and help others in the midst of the crisis.

1. Give grace. We’re all dealing with rapid change, loss, and anxiety about the unknown. I have a friend in Oregon who shed tears about having to close up her kindergarten classroom for the year. Other friends who work in healthcare or the grocery industry are feeling the strain of their increased job demands. It’s important to extend extra grace to others right now. Be quick to forgive if someone is irritable. Show patience. Take a moment to listen to someone’s frustrations or fears. Remember to encourage and thank people.

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2. Relish Relationships. If you’re “sheltering at home” with family and are already getting a bit of “cabin fever,” remember to appreciate this unique opportunity to draw closer. This is an unprecedented time when no one is running from activity to activity. While you may need to carve out unique ways for family members to have a little “personal space,” don’t miss the chance to engage in face-to-face activities and conversations you normally don’t have time for. It’s likely that one day you will look back and remember these times of “forced togetherness” with fondness.

3. Connect Creatively. On the flip side, many people are feeling isolated right now. Loneliness has been listed as one of the “side effects”’ of the pandemic. My boss recently stated how he wished the term for separating ourselves from one another was called “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing”. How right he is—while keeping a physical distance is prudent, we need social connection more than ever. Think through your list of friends, neighbors, and co-workers who are isolated due to being under quarantine or “shelter at home” orders. A phone call, email, text, social media post, video chat, or hand-written note can go a long way in helping them feel connected.

4. Gather Gratitude: When we feel like things are being taken away from us, it’s crucial to count our blessings. No matter the circumstances, we can find something to be thankful for. I am grateful that I have electricity, clean running water, and a strong internet connection. I appreciate that I still have a job, and am blessed with friends and family who love me. Yesterday, I even found myself expressing thanks for each fresh vegetable I chopped for a pot of soup. Had I not tasted a bit of scarcity at the grocery store, I would not have appreciated that zucchini nearly as much. Take a moment today to focus on what you have instead of what you’re missing.

5. Give Generously. Think about all the organizations, ministries, and businesses you normally interact with that have been forced to modify their operations or shut their doors. If you are still fortunate enough to be receiving an income, I encourage you to find ways to support them. It may mean ordering take-out from a restaurant you normally go to for a sit-down dinner, or purchasing items online from a retailer you are used to visiting in person.  Remember to keep tithing to your house of worship, even if  services have gone online. To go one step further, I invite you to practice radical generosity by giving to those whom you normally patronize or support – even if you aren’t receiving anything in return!

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6. Feed Your Faith. In times of uncertainty, faith is the greatest antidote for fear. I have been comforted lately by remembering that God is still in control. He not only holds the whole world in his hands, He tenderly cares about my needs. I have been especially drawn to the imagery throughout Scripture of God as our “Rock” (see the verses at the end of this post).  He is stable.  No virus or economic downturn can diminish His power or purposes. In the midst of this storm, He remains a firm foundation. I trust in His love, knowing that He will bring good out of the darkest times. People typically respond to trials in one of two ways–they either pull away from God, or draw near to Him. It’s my prayer that you will feed and nurture your faith during these times.

7. Pray Persistently. God invites us to cast our cares upon Him, and one of the greatest ways to do that is through prayer. Because the list of things to pray about right now may feel overwhelming, focus on the things that are heaviest upon your heart. Our leaders, from national to local levels need prayer for wisdom. Our first responders need strength and resources. Thousands of people are struggling with the loss of income. And of course, people worldwide are sick or have lost loved ones. Remember that no prayer is too small (or too big) for God to handle.  There’s no better time to practice Romans 12:2, which states we are to be “joyful in hope, patient in affliction,” and “faithful in prayer”.

Friends, we may be separated physically during this time, but we’re all in this together. Remember that this state of emergency will not last forever. In the meantime, let’s stay connected with others (from a distance) and open our hearts to grow in grace, gratitude, generosity, and faith. As we do, we’ll experience peace in the midst of this pandemic.

Blessings,
Jane


 

Fifteen Verses about God, our Rock

New International Version

“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”   Deuteronomy 32:4

“There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” I Samuel 2:2

“For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?” 2 Samuel 22:32

“The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!”  2 Samuel 22:47

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14

“Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.”  Psalm 31:2

“Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.” Psalm 31:3

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”  Psalm 61:2

“Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:2

“They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.” Psalm 78:35

But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.” Psalm 94:22

“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:4

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”  Matthew 7:24

“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”  Matthew 7:25

“They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”  Luke 6:48

 

 

Dethroning my social media god

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My mornings had fallen into a predictable pattern.

  1. Wake up.
  2. Eventually roll out of bed.
  3. Shower.
  4. Proceed to my laptop.
  5. Read and answer emails.
  6. Read national and local news.
  7. Scroll down my Facebook feed.
  8. Take far too much time on 5, 6, and 7.
  9. Realize I’m running late.
  10. Rush to cook breakfast.
  11. Quickly read a few Bible verses while scarfing oatmeal.
  12. Pray in-between bites.
  13. Hurriedly finish my makeup and hair.
  14. Dash out the door to work.

Then one day, as I was wishing I felt stronger in my faith, it hit me.

An idol had crept into my life. Continue reading

Are you ready for Christmas?

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The calendar had barely flipped past November when I started getting the question.

“Are you ready for Christmas?”

Translation:  “Do you have all your Christmas presents purchased and wrapped, your house impeccably decorated, 100 Christmas cards sent, dozens of cookies baked from scratch, and holiday family gathering plans finalized?”

My typical response is, “Uh . . . not yet, but I’m working on it.”

What they don’t see, is that under my ugly Christmas sweater, I’ve broken out in red and green hives. Just thinking about the expectations behind the inquiry stresses me out.

One of my coworkers, however, doesn’t let it phase him.

It was only a few days into December when someone lobbed the question to him during a staff meeting. Without losing a beat, he responded: “YES, I am ready for Christmas.”

At first, we didn’t know whether to be impressed or jealous. But then he left everyone speechless when he stated matter-of-factly, “I’m ready because I have purchased zero presents and that is exactly the number I plan to buy.”

Inwardly I applauded his audacity for bucking the system.

“How nice it would be if ‘being ready’ didn’t equate to running about in a frenzy for a month and going into credit card debt,” I thought.

Then one day, I was poring over my mile-long holiday “to-do” list and flipped on the radio for some background music. As I numbly hummed along to “Joy to the World,” a phrase suddenly broke through and hit me between the eyes: Continue reading

When nowhere feels safe

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I was standing in line at Walmart when the thought crossed my mind, “What would I do if gunshots suddenly rang out?” I knew it could happen, because shoppers in a Colorado store recently experienced it.

Driving home, I passed my church, and reflected on the massacre in a house of worship in Texas only a week earlier.

Nearby I saw the college where I work, and envisioned our regular “active shooter” drills.

It seems as if our country has become a place where we can’t buy groceries, attend church, or go to school without fear that bullets will begin flying.

Maybe like me, you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the rapid-fire succession of news stories detailing mass shootings. I’m almost reluctant to turn on my TV, computer, or smartphone, for fear of hearing about another incident. (In fact, since I began writing this blog, several more horrific gun violence incidents have been reported.)

It’s tempting to live in a state of denial, become de-sensitized to tragedy, or exist in a constant “fight or flight” mode in response. Yet none of these options are healthy over the long-term.

So, how do we keep engaging life with a sense of peace and purpose when nowhere feels “safe?”

Continue reading

When it’s okay to break a secret

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Can you keep a secret?” she asked. “Sure!” was my quick reply, thinking I was going to hear something light-hearted.

My friend then confided that she had been doing something inappropriate for several weeks. It wasn’t illegal, and it wasn’t hurting anyone, but I knew it was wrong . . . and so did she.

I immediately offered an alternative so she could stop what she was doing, but she adamantly declined.

We parted ways, and I felt the weight of an ethical dilemma sink like a boulder in the pit of my stomach.

If I broke her secret, I would betray her confidence and risk losing our fledgling friendship. Yet if I stayed silent, I would be part of a cover-up.

I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. Continue reading